I make it a point not to share controversial opinions on this blog for a number of reasons. Number one, I want this to be a happy place for you and for me not a place of arguments and angst. Number two, crochet should be celebrated and enjoyed and most of the time should not be controversial. And number three, I think it’s important for me to present both sides of a story and not just my personal opinion since I know I’m not “right” but just have a particular view. That said, I’m going to veer off my chosen course today and share my personal opinion on the controversial topic of Pinterest pins. I’m doing this because I do have a strong opinion here and it’s one that I’ve seen hugely underrepresented in the recent Pinterest conversation.

Background of the Controversy

I’ve been watching the Pinterest news and opinions with a little bit of interest and then a little bit of horror. Many people are attacking Pinterest and its users primarily over issues of copyright and somewhat over Pinterest profiting off of pins. You can read all about it online in other places but to be fair, here are some of their arguments:

  • People are pinning photographs that they don’t have permission to pin.
  • People should pin items only with links to the original source.
  • People are repinning and liking pins without following the links.
  • Pinterest can add affiliate links to some photos and profit off the pin. They shouldn’t.
  • Pinterest should bear some responsibility for preventing pinning of copyrighted material. They don’t do enough.

Here’s what I say: poppycock. And I’ll tell you why …

It’s Your Job as a Creative Person to Be Unique Enough to Stand Out

Let me explain …

I think that the whole nature of pinning and liking and quickly responding or reposting to things that you’ve barely even looked at is the way of the Internet right now. People RT links they haven’t actually read. They hit the like button on Facebook shares they’ve barely glanced at. And they like and repin on Pinterest. And I think that’s fine. I think that people online today know what this does and doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that you’ve followed every link and researched to make sure it’s a credible source and that you agree with every single point in the article or like the exact details of the pattern. All it does mean is “hey, I like this, and it was shared by someone I generally find credible so I’m going to share it too”. That’s it.

What does this have to do with being unique? It is my opinion that if you create something truly unique then people who are interested in it are going to take the time to find you as the source. If I really adore a crochet fashion item that I see on Pinterest and want to know more about it, I’ll follow the links to find out the information I want to know. And you know what, if the actual link on Pinterest doesn’t take me to the original source or a credible site that links to the original source, it’s okay because as a web information consumer I know that I have options. I can:

  • Google the information. If the item is original and unique, I’m probably going to find it. For example, if someone puts up a Pin to a photo of Patricia Waller‘s Who Killed Bambi? and the pin links to some sketchy or uninformative site, I can just type into Google something like “Bambi crochet blood” and I’ll easily and almost instantly find out that the creator is Patricia Waller even if the Pinner didn’t share that information.
  • Put the image into a Google image search. Have you done this yet? You can actually drag an image from the web (from a site like Pinterest) into the Google image search box and the genius web will find where else that same photo and similar photos have been posted. You can easily see which sources are credible and which ones aren’t and find what you’re looking for.
  • Ask about the item on your social networks. If you see something unique and cool and you want to know more about it and truly can’t find that information then you can always blog about it, Tweet about it, FB about it, asking your contacts if they know who the creator is. You’re probably going to get an answer. I know that I’ve never failed to get an answer about a crochet item source from going to the experts on social sites.

If you create something that is nice but not unique then it may not be as easy to find your stuff through these channels. And frankly, I think that’s okay. I think it encourages innovation in creation while still offering a place online for people who make mediocre-whatever kind of stuff. People can pin the photo of your normal crochet scarf and a few people can like it and I think it should be considered a nice thing that they like it. So they don’t follow all of the links all the way through to your creation. Maybe it just means that what you’re putting out there isn’t creative enough for a large public buying market to buzz about you.

What’s Your Job as a Creative Businessperson?

I’ve asked myself the hard questions when it comes to this topic. You see, I’m primarily a writer rather than a photographer or a crochet designer and since my work isn’t necessarily visual in that same way, do I have the right to have these strong opinions on Pinterest sharing? And here’s what I’ve concluded: I’d feel the same way about it if I were making my primary income selling crochet patterns or working as a photographer. And here’s why …

I feel that it is my job as a creative businessperson to adapt to changes in the market and changes in technology, not to get the people who use them to adapt to me.

So let’s say that I’ve created a crochet pattern for sale and it’s gotten a lot of buzz on Pinterest but some of the links are going to sites that aren’t mine. While I absolutely don’t think anyone online should be reposting a creator’s full patterns that they offer for sale, I think as a creative businessperson I would focus my efforts on figuring out how I can adapt my business model to offer something so appealing to the market that this little part of it isn’t going to matter so much. Can I teach local or online crochet classes? Can I improve my online presence so that people know undoubtedly that this creative design is mine and can easily find it online? Can I sell this crochet pattern to a magazine … What can I do to take my business to the next level so I succeed regardless of what sketchy people are repinning or RTing or whatever.

Likewise if I were a professional photographer, I wouldn’t care if someone pinned a few photos of mine. I’d consider it my job as a creative business person to be offering photography services, classes, photo tips on a blog, prints of my work, etc. In the end, if I’m creating truly unique photos and people are pinning them, that’s buzz for me regardless of improper linking. People will find me through my creativity and they will arrive at my site and know how to support my work with a creative purchase of goods or services.

Now, before anyone jumps down my throat because I’m not a crochet designer and I’m not a photographer and what do I know … I get it, I really do. I make my living from writing. I do a lot of research. I sit down even when I don’t want to and craft hard to write articles. I work in a kind of isolation that many people can’t handle. I climbed my way through a lot of ladders and hoops to establish my income as a writer. And did you know that pretty much every single day someone steals my content? They literally come in, scrape exactly what I’ve written and publish it online (and I’ve even seen it published offline) without giving me any credit and often under their own names. Or by printing my name as a “guest blogger” or something like that even when they have no permission to steal my content. And yes, I hate it. I think it’s rude and unethical and it irks me a lot that sometimes those sites get my traffic. But over the years I’ve come to accept that bad people are going to do these things. And instead of wasting my time and energy trying to change that, I’ve adapted my business practices to try to stand out as a writer and to broaden my own income streams because I think that’s what’s most important for my career. I genuinely believe that if I put effort into crafting my own business and standing out as a unique individual and offering something that no one else is offering then it’ll pay off for me even when people are stealing my content.

Pinterest Best Practices

Despite my opinion on this, I do think that there are some best practices that people who care about this issue can implement when using a site like Pinterest.

Here are the two rules that I think are imperative and obvious for me:

  • Never claim content as your own when it’s not. If you didn’t make the item and you’re the one pinning it for the first time, say in the comment box who did make it. I don’t really care if you link to the original source or not but say the name of the creator. Don’t pretend that you made it.
  • Never publish a significant body of someone else’s work. Pin the photo of the cool crochet item. Don’t pin a link to the whole pattern. Pin the stunning awesome photographer’s photo. Don’t pin every photo in their portfolio.

Honestly, those rules are really enough for me. But there are some other best practices that I can understand the reasons that people follow them:

  • Try to give a link to the original source. Or at least to a credible source that will help the person find an original source. For example, I might Pin something that’s on CRAFT or Knithacker. That link isn’t to the original photo or tutorial but those sites always link to the original source so I’m okay with that. Someone interested in the item can find the original source.
  • Follow boards on Pinterest that are from people you generally find credible. I do this same thing on Twitter. I sometimes RT a crochet related article before I’ve read it because it sounds interesting, I’m telling people I think it sounds appealing and I generally trust the source because I know their work and social activity. Same deal on Pinterest.

My Guilt-Free Pinterest Confessions

Honestly, I think that you bear more responsibility in ethical consumption of material than you do in repinning or sharing work. I engage in plenty of Pinterest practices that some people would say aren’t good practices and that recent articles say I shouldn’t be doing. And I’ll confess them here because I’m personally okay with them:

  • I “like” pins without following the links. I do it a lot. All I’m saying is “hey, I like this”. No more, no less.
  • I occasionally repin without following the links. Same deal although I do it a lot less. A “repin” to me is something that’s really special. It’s more than a like. So I give it a little more attention.
  • I pin links to my own blog rather than the original source and I pin photos without getting express permission. Here’s the deal; I write a lot of articles and every day I look at those articles that have gone live and I pin the best photos that I’ve shared. A lot of times they’re my photos. Sometimes they aren’t. I’m not going to go back and find the original photo and ask the person for permission to share it and wait for permission and link back to that original source. It’s either share the item from my own blog or don’t share it. As a creative person, I’d rather someone shared it. Now I do always try to say who the real creator is on my pin. And I do share the link to the original source in my article that the pin has linked to.

And this is where I think that the issue of a consumer’s responsibility comes in. I don’t think that it’s my job to make sure that something is from a totally legit source before I “like” it on Pinterest. However, if I’m going to write an article about that item and put out fresh information then it IS my job to follow those links and find the original source. If I’m going to create my own version of that crocheted item, it IS my job to find out who the original creator was and to buy the pattern from that legit source.

My Two Cents on Pinterest’s Responsibility

I think Pinterest has received way too many attacks lately and it’s not really justified. They’re a high tech business in a new age of visual social media and they’re still learning the ropes and best practices too. I think it’s about how they respond to issues that come up, not what they do from the get go. And from what I’ve seen, they’re responding. They’ve added some things to their site about good Pinterest etiquette and their commitment to follow up on reported copyright violations.

As for them making a profit off of pinned images using affiliate links … I think that if you don’t add your own affiliate link to the pin then there’s no reason they shouldn’t take advantage of that. I have no problem with sites making money off affiliate links or ads or anything like that. They have to make enough money to be able to respond to what consumers want and I think, personally, that this is a legit way of doing it.

Personally, I’d like to see them add something on the Pinterest site that’s akin to the “report for spam” and “block” options that are available on Twitter. I use those frequently on Twitter when I see bad links, spam stuff and other bad Twitter practices. I would do the same on Pinterest and I think others would too, allowing the Pinterest community to help police the site so that it offers good content.

Okay, so if you agree or okay with my practices and want to follow me on Pinterest, I’m here. If not, have at it in the comments with your own two cents but try to be thoughtful and gentle in your response as I’ve tried to be respectful in sharing my opinion.


San Francisco based and crochet-obsessed writer, dreamer and creative spirit!


  1. sophiaroberts Reply

    Thank you for this excellent article. What a breath of fresh air!

  2. tintocktap Reply

    Completely agree with every word – let common sense prevail!

  3. icrochetinoh Reply

    I wanted to write something from my phone but it wasn’t working so I had to wait. I agree too, with what you wrote. i don;t understand why people get so bent out of shape. To me this is a place where I can find things and repin them to my boards for inspiration for so many things. that’s what I want to do, nothing more. I don;t think there’s anything off with what Pinterest is doing. I’m happy it’s here. I’m not on Twitter or Facebook for a reason.

  4. CrochetBlogger Reply

    @icrochetinoh @tintocktap @sophiaroberts Thanks so much for taking the time to support what I’ve written here with your comment. So appreciated!

  5. sophiaroberts Reply

    The thrust of the fuss is copyright, which is understandable – up to a point… But I wanted to say I so agree with what you say about why and how you use Pinterest, icrochetinoh. There are times in my life when just looking at pictures (and not having to talk about them) is almost therapeutic. I certainly found it to be so last year, when I was ill and needed to just chill…

  6. icrochetinoh Reply

    thanks sophiaroberts. For me Pinterest is all about things that interest me, hello it’s part of the word Pinterest. Anyway I’m just glad it’s there it’s nice to peruse and see all of the neat things that are out there.

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  8. crochetcabana Reply

    I did not know that about googling images. Very cool except that the first time I did it I found an Arabic site whose owner stole many of my photos, kept my original copyright on them, and posted them on her own site as a tutorial. Not cool.

    • CrochetBlogger Reply

      @crochetcabana No, that’s not cool. It’s a good way to find out information like that, though, about who is using your photos. And just for kicks it’s really fun to look at the “visually similar” images which turns up things with a similar color scheme.

  9. VashtiBraha Reply

    Hi Kathryn, wow, this sure is a meaty, energetic blog post and thanks for making me think more about the whole Pinterest thing. The subject has come to look to me like it’s muddled by mixing the separate issues for pinners vs. the pinned. I think your points are great for those who are pinned–the photographers, the crochet designers, etc; the ones who create the pinnable stuff. I know people who don’t want to be pinned for the reasons you mentioned. I *love* it when my stuff is pinned! I love the fun people are having with pinning, viewing boards, and re-pinning. Pinterest is definitely onto something!
    The issues are very different for the pinner, which you didn’t go into as much here. At the end of the day, it’s a personal matter whether each individual is comfortable with the Pinterest Terms of Service or not. I’m giving Pinterest some time to refine their TOS a bit before I re-join as a pinner. I’m overall quite happy being a “pinnee” though LOL.

    • CrochetBlogger Reply

      @VashtiBraha vashtirama Thanks for the comment. I didn’t think about the fact that there’s two separate issues (pinned vs pinner) but you’re definitely right about that. Something more to think on!

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  11. strouseacademy03 Reply

    Pinetrest is how I found you! Love your blog and am thankful that your stuff is on pinetrest. I to try my best not to pin anything that does not link back to the original link. It is more time consuming this way, to check all the blogs but I worth it when I want to go back and actually read more or even create something. Thanks for the tip on the google image, thing too.

    Again glad you are on pinterest!

    • CrochetBlogger Reply

      @strouseacademy03 Thanks so much! I really enjoy Pinterest and am happy to be there. And you’ve made a good point about how following the link through to the original link may be worth the time if it brings you to the best content.

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  17. EmpressRose Reply

    My whole issue that thoroughly ticks me off isn’t the whole copyrighted thing, it’s when they pin a beautiful item that’s crocheted, but the fact that they don’t pin where they got the pattern or where we can get it from. It doesn’t matter it’s a paid pattern or not. It pisses me off when I find all these amazing things on pinterest to crochet and I can’t because the nimrods that are pinning them, don’t leave a link to the patter. I have COMPLETELY given up on pinterest because of that and don’t use it anymore. Not at all.

  18. EmpressRose Reply

    whoa whoa whoa….hold up. I haven’t read the entire article because it’s HUGELY long, but I just noticed you said NOT to pin the link to the pattern. Why the heck not? Even if it’s a paid item, that still means that I would have to pay for it, which isn’t copyrighting it. Because they’re sourcing the original person that made it. It’s so frustrating like I said in my previous comment, when you find something that’s awesome and want to make it but can’t because the frickin person who pinned it did NOT leave a link to the original pattern. What’s the point? Seriously? Because it just is frustrating for people like me who might want to make that said item and can’t because we have no idea how to. Some of us can’t mimic something by just looking at it and make up a pattern for it from the top of our heads. Trust me, some people do that with copyrighted items. >.> Not me obviously, but still. It happens.

    • Kathryn Reply

      I don’t think I made myself clear on this. What I meant was not to post someone else’s entire pattern on your own site and link to it … it’s okay to post their link on your site along with one photo and then on Pinterest link to your site on the photo. So basically if someone wants to find that pattern, they will pop to your site, see what you had to say about it, and then use the links on your site to get to their full pattern.

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