Social Media, Security and Intellectual Property

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Those of us who have worked for years to create and protect an online brand are frequently faced with sites that make it very easy to steal our intellectual property. Social media sites are the worst offenders. Not only are they notoriously unsafe, their existence practically requires stealing intellectual property to create content. Some believe that bloggers are often guilty of the same crime, but SCOTUS has ruled in favor of limited use of intellectual property by bloggers. Displaying a short quote or an image accompanied by commentary, satire or an explanation for educational purposes is considered “fair use” (see more on fair-use). Sadly, many social media sites go well beyond the concept of fair use and simply become a dumping ground for the intellectual property of others, primarily images, with no commentary added and no apparent educational purpose.

pinterestPinterest, the fastest-growing social media site, was designed for users to “organize and share things you love”, or images, like a scrapbook. Sounds like a fun use of one’s pictures of family, hobbies and more. However, its obvious to me that many simply grab images they like from other sites and post them on their Pinterest page with no source attribution and no commentary or explanation. Some Pinterest pages look like nothing more than a bulk upload of images. These images are the intellectual property of another site.

Some Pinterest users are actually using the trademarked names of companies and websites as the title of their Pinterest page. One Pinterest account is currently using the name of our site, All Things Democrat, which we claimed as trademarked at our founding in 2006. Pinterest provides a form and an email address dedicated to reporting copyright and trademark infringement in their user’s accounts. But not only have we received no response after 3 attempts to report and resolve our trademark infringement on Pinterest, we’ve now been informed by the site that there was a security breach with the vendor they use to process these reports (which explains the sudden increase in emails we’ve received from porn sites). We received this email from Pinterest (with my emphasis added):

We recently learned that the vendor we use to answer support requests and other emails (Zendesk) experienced a security breach.

We’re sending you this email because we received or answered a message from you using Zendesk. Unfortunately your name, email address and subject line of your message were improperly accessed during their security breach. To help keep your account secure, please:

  • Don’t share your password. We will never send you an email asking for your password. If you get an email like this, please let us know right away.
  • Beware of suspicious emails. If you get any emails that look like they’re from Pinterest but don’t feel right, please let us know—especially if they include details about your support request.
  • Use a strong Pinterest password. Hackers can sometimes guess very short passwords with no letters or symbols. If your password is weak, you can create a new one.

We’re really sorry this happened, and we’ll keep working with law enforcement and our vendors to ensure your information is protected.

– The Pinterest Team

So, thanks to Pinterest, All Things Democrat now joins the long list of parties damaged by social media. Our trademark has been infringed upon and our email account has been shared with porn spammers. And people wonder why I hate social media.

Update: Pinterest has now responded and states they have given the user notice to change their page name or they will change it for them. Better late than never, I guess. We’ll keep an eye on it …

Update: Pinterest has followed-through and the page using our trademark was removed. Have to give them some credit for that. Now if I could only get Facebook’s Zuckerberg to stop using Facebook profits to defeat Democrats and stop pushing his right-wing agenda

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