Pinterest’s Attribution Program Grows: Dreamstime Joins To Help End Battle Over Watermarked, Copyrighted Images

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Dreamstime, a stock photo site with 5 million users and 140,000 contributors, has become the latest professional photography service to resolve its legal issues regarding the pinning of copyright-protected, watermarked images shared on Pinterest. The solution incorporates an attribution line, which now appears beneath the photo in question and links back to the photo’s page on Dreamstime.com. This is the same solution that Pinterest offers to other members of its “attribution program,” including Flickr, YouTube, 500px, Etsy, and others.

Following user outcry, says Dreamstime CFO Noelle Federico, the company created an API per Pinterest’s specifications in order to operate with the service’s existing suite of tools for attribution. Pinterest also confirms that partners do have to implement at least a simple API on their end, as opposed to merely adding some provided code to their website in order for attribution to properly work.

Federico says complaints about Pinterest first appeared on Dreamstime’s forums in mid-May, and soon, hundreds of photographers had chimed in, angry about their watermarked images being posted to Pinterest but not linking back to the photo’s page on Dreamstime. Company executives examined the problem and found that Pinterest users were able to post the watermarked image with a URL that pointed elsewhere – like a blog, for example.

This is not a new concern for Pinterest. Although the company already offered “opt out” code to website admins, it recognized the better solution was not to prevent pinning, but rather to enable pinners to properly credit the media they shared. In response to backlash from content creators, like those at Dreamstime, angry that users were pinning their content without proper attribution, Pinterest launched its attribution program in May with with partners Flickr, YouTube, Behance and Vimeo.

Pinterest later expanded the program in June to include Etsy, Kickstarter, Slideshare, and SoundCloud. On content pinned from these sites, attribution now appears below the media and is hyperlinked. Many of those initial partners’ user bases are a mix of both consumers, amateurs, and professional content creators, while others are mainly communities of professional content creators.

Still, there aren’t very many stock photo sites listed as using the attribution tools. Behance, Flickr and 500px are used by pros, but if you look at images pinned from several of Dreamstime’s competitors, like Shutterstock or iStockPhoto for example, you’ll see they are not participating in the attribution program. Shutterstock is basically just watermarking its photos with its name and ID number at the bottom, while istockphoto images are only identified by their watermark and, again, non-hyperlinked text.

Pinterest tells us that it’s now talking to “several other sites” who are interested in joining the program, but those deals have not been finalized yet. Presumably, Dreamstime’s competition will have to make their own decisions about attribution, as well. For now, those at Getty for example, aren’t concerned about Pinterest – but when Pinterest starts making money, that may change.

Dreamstime says it’s happy with the solution for the most part, but some photographers are still worried because clicking the image will still link elsewhere, attribution or not. As for Pinterest, the company thinks they have to draw the line somewhere. “We believe content creators should have choice, which is why we offer the attribution program and ‘no pin’ code,” a spokesperson says. “We can’t control if someone right-clicks on an image and saves it to their blog. This is a limitation of the Internet.”