The Failure of Etiquette On Pinterest (and Tumblr)

Given the popularity (and quick growth) of sites like Pinterest and Tumblr, they obviously have something to offer the internet community. However, one thing none of them do (or truly can do themselves) is guarantee proper citation and attribution to the work that gets shared. That’s where users need to be diligent and respectful of the intellectual property of others, not just the source of discovery. Which is much easier than observed practice would suggest.

Both Pinterest and Tumblr have built-in UI elements that attribute the source of discovery (e.g. via) which gives credit to where the user found the image, and Pinterest goes a step further by linking to the original source (followed by clicking on the image itself). This constant link along the lifespan of a single pin shows an attempt at proper citation, and is all they can realistically do, but it still has loopholes. As an example, let’s use the typographic image I found pinned to someone else’s board today. It had no reference to where the work had come from, nor did the source they found it on, nor the next one, nor did any of the thirteen boards all the way back to the original pin. That’s sixteen pins without attribution to the original creator. I’m not sure if it’s better or worse, but several of the shares were merely using the illustrated words to promote a separate unrelated topic, not the art itself — but that’s a different discussion.

The Failure of Pinterest and Tumblr: A Case Study
So what about the original source link we mentioned earlier? That led to a Tumblr blog, which once again offered attribution to the source of discovery but nothing to the original source or creator. Following the thread of shares leads back through ten more Tumblr blogs before terminating at an account that was deactivated in 2011. All told, that’s twenty-eight points of sharing where no one bothered to give credit to the artist who drew the original work. And that’s only a single thread. There are easily more divulging branches at each of the twenty-eight points, as each one in turn was repinned & reblogged by more than the user I followed back.

Was it really that hard for any of those people to use Google Image search (even here, our sought for result was three pages back, buried by all the reposts of the image) to trace the image back to the Flickr  account of justlucky, who’s user profile conveniently linked to his personal website, wherein was his name — Drew Melton — the original creator of the now twenty-nine times shared image.

Curator's Code