Special Report: Copyright pains on Pinterest

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) – Pinterest: The social media website is a growing addiction among many woman-- and some men-- nationwide.

It lets its users compile thousands of pictures onto pin boards, creating a collage of colorful inspiration.

"I even use it for my wardrobe. I keep track of things that I want and I build a wardrobe that way," said Allison Blevins, co-owner of downtown knitting store Tangle. “It's really cool for Tangle. A lot of times our windows are Pinterest inspired. The ones now definitely are."

Pinterest prides itself on providing insight on all things artistic, from décor to recipes to fashion.

For natural light photographer Lacey Borba, the site serves as a useful piece of her professional toolbox.

"I use Pinterest to send my clients links so they can choose what to wear, even if it's seniors or families or kids," said Borba.

But not all photographers are as enthusiastic about the site. Photographer Chad Mahlum thinks that when people take a picture from a photographer's website without their permission, the artist loses creative control.

"It certainly detracts from your ability to sell more images, and it also detracts from people finding who you are if there's no link to you or no connection to you," said Mahlum.

But at what point is sharing a photo on Pinterest considered copyright infringement?

"If you take a photograph someone else took -- you take it off their website and you put it on Pinterest or anyone else and you offer to sell it, you are violating someone's copyright because you are trying to use their property for your commercial gain," said Chuck Tobin, a media lawyer.

Tobin said not only can you get in trouble for selling the picture itself, but using it in a piece of advertising can also violate the law.

“A willful infringement really has to simply be that you knew it belonged to someone else and you didn't do anything to try to transform or change it," said Tobin.

But the punishment for pinning most likely won't be as harsh as if you pirated movies or illegally downloaded thousands of songs.

"You'll probably get a take down notice or something like that a cease-and-desist order-- things like that -- for use of Pinterest. Chances are they won't take you too far in the law," said CMU instructor of mass communication Adam Cochran.

Though going to court--on any matter-- isn't cheap, and you could end up paying the artist's legal fees on top of your own, as well as any damages the judge orders if you're found guilty, Tobin said.

But chances are that few photographers will take you to court for just pinning their picture. Borba actually encourages people share her work on Pinterest.

"I think that if I can inspire somebody the way that I’m inspired, then that's a good thing," Borba said.

Even Mahlum sees the advantages of the site for his business.

"It gets more people to see your work, so it's like anything. It's a double-edged sword," he said.

According to Tobin, if you want to incorporate something you found on Pinterest with something you're working on, it's best to combine it with other artistic elements, like more pictures, paintings or writing. By transforming it and making it your own, you won't be breaking copyright, he said.

You can see how we at KKCO use Pinterest, giving you behind the scenes shots and original recipes from our news team. Find a link to our page below under Related Links.

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