{Updated: March 15, 2012}

The internet: where everyone goes, and where very few know how to behave. Not through lack of trying, mind you – many of us try our best, but NEW AND FUN THINGS keeps popping up on our radar and we just want to THROW OURSELVES IN. Terms of use? Yes I agree, yes yes yes! Just let me into this app/game/website. Whoops, this might infringe on the rights of others – whatevs, that’s the website’s problem, amirite?

Sadly and all too oftenly, nope.

Many of us aren’t strangers to being “borrowed” from. A few years ago I designed a logo for my dear friend Michelle, then one day she emailed me with a little surprise:

Clever Cupcakes logo vs imposter

Isn’t that a delightful homage? I didn’t think so, either. I emailed and respectfully asked for a take-down and the person wrote back to say that she had found my image by Googling “cupcake” and that as such it was fair game. Um, no, it’s not, really. It took a few diplomatic emails to explain why this was inaccurate. I was beginning to despair when the lightbulb moment finally arrived as I explained that had she found the McDonald’s logo instead, she wouldn’t have used it. She agreed to take the logo down.

If only it always went down this simply – often the stakes are much higher. I regularly see many talented independent artists getting ripped off by big corporations. But what if your images are not being modified or used for personal profit, yet are being shared at a dizzying rate, without your permission or even without leading back to the correct source? Surely an artist doesn’t mind getting a little free promotion, right? Well, you don’t need me to tell you what assuming does…

Pinterest has been around for a few years now, but has gathered considerably more steam and attention as of late. It’s a pretty fun concept. “Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” Hey, cool. With all the nifty things I find on the web, and with all of my ideas and future plans/haircuts/meals/renovations depending on it, I could use some organizing help. There’s even some pin etiquette to help get you started. Interestingly, they’re saying to avoid self-promotion. Really? Ok then. Moving on… wait. What’s this in the Terms?

“You acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services. Accordingly, you represent and warrant that: (i) you either are the sole and exclusive owner of all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services or you have all rights, licenses, consents and releases that are necessary to grant to Cold Brew Labs the rights in such Member Content, as contemplated under these Terms; and (ii) neither the Member Content nor your posting, uploading, publication, submission or transmittal of the Member Content or Cold Brew Labs’ use of the Member Content (or any portion thereof) on, through or by means of the Site, Application and the Services will infringe, misappropriate or violate a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other proprietary or intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy, or result in the violation of any applicable law or regulation.”

*Holds up hand* Soooo…. how can I post anything if I shouldn’t self-promote but those are the only images I actually own? How can I pin to my boards if I don’t have the rights to use the images I find on the interwebs? *Waves hand around* Is this even a sustainable business model?

It’s great that Pinterest encourages their users to credit the source (if you spend any time on Pinterest, you’ll see that a lot of images are credited to other pins, or Tumblr, or whatever other site they were copied from, instead of actually leading anywhere that would be productive to the actual creator of the image). Not to mention, Link With Love is doing an admirable job of raising awareness in this regard. And many Pinterest users are conscientious, caring people who are crediting, attributing, linking wherever they can. But there’s one thing everyone mentioned here has forgotten about:

Most, if not all, of the images you’re posting do not belong to you. You need to ask permission.

I probably should put my hand down now – my fingers are getting numb, and I don’t think anybody’s going to be able to answer my question, at least not for now. If everybody on Pinterest actually took the time to ask permission to use the images they’re pinning, would anybody still be on there? And if you really think about it, shouldn’t this already apply to all blogs, tumblrs, facebook pages, etc? I realize this is a much bigger issue that stretches far beyond the scope of this (already very long – and it keeps getting longer) post, but it’s something we should all consider on our daily internet wanderings. Professionally, when I come across a font or texture I’d like to use for a project, I read the terms of use. If they don’t grant permission for commercial use, I don’t use it. If the creator wants attribution and the project I’m working on doesn’t allow for that, I don’t use it. And so on. Why should anything else on the internet be approached any differently? If there’s a share button, or some kind of disclaimer where you agree to respect the terms, go for it. But if there isn’t – do you really need it that instantly that you can’t write a short note saying how much you like said image, and can you please use it? Not only is it respectful (and lawful), but 9 times out of 10, you’ll be making that person’s day. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE making somebody’s day…

Pinterest is trying to set up some measures to help with this. They’ve created a “pin it” button you can add to your site to allow users to pin your work, and conversely they’ve also created a code snippet you can add to your website that will block people who try to pin from it. Flickr has already implemented this code to pages with copyrighted or protected images.

Unfortunately, the code snippet is very easy to bypass and I have seen websites with no-pin codes continue to have their images pinned to Pinterest – meaning that users are still pinning even though the copyright owner of the work has specifically and unmistakably requested that they don’t. This kind of behaviour is exactly what has some content creators and bloggers so concerned, and the fact that Pinterest continues to be so passive about it (i.e. you need to contact them to file a claim of infringement, but they aren’t actively discouraging this behaviour nor investigating/enforcing this on their own).

Additionally, the pin-it button does not necessarily eliminate the permission question. Firstly, if I have obtained permission to run somebody’s work on my blog, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they have also given permission to allow their images to be pinned to Pinterest. Adding pin-it buttons throughout your blog can be misconstrued as a green light to pin when, in fact, you may not have the right to offer this kind of permission. Secondly, a trend seems to be forming where major sites are adding pin-it buttons across the board, regardless of whether the content belongs to them or not, and without giving any kind of opt-out choice. Behance has since revised their approach and are not including the pin-it button on any portfolio work that is not cc (creative commons). Etsy remains particularly worrisome because they exist primarily to showcase and promote independent artists’ work, and at the moment there is no option for sellers to remove the pin-it button from their images.

And what about all the sites that don’t have pin-it buttons? Pinterest is basically suggesting that the entire internet needs to modify their sites with the (slightly ineffective) block-out code in order to opt-out. It shouldn’t be an opt-out. It should be an opt-in.

Ok, so back to me. Since I can’t post anything I don’t own or have the rights to, how about I throw suggested pin etiquette out the window and just post my own work? Then I’m safe, right? Wrong…

“By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.”

Some of these rights sound a bit scary, but as with many other sites, they are necessary in order for the site to function as it promises to. But SELL? That’s a bad word to see in there. (“And otherwise exploit”… after everything else they’ve listed, I can’t even imagine what that would mean). If I post any of my work, I’m granting Pinterest the right to sell it? Oof. A few years ago I used to warn artist friends not to post their work on Facebook for licensing reasons but most people really don’t seem to care. And, I will admit to using Instagram (for personal use) with gleeful abandon. Perhaps Pinterest will be free of this kind of care, as well. But until the terms of use change, I think I’ll refrain from pinning my own work, or adding any pin-it buttons to my site; at least for now, thank-you.

Don’t get me wrong – the idea that somebody might like my work enough to save it as inspiration or just to share with others tickles me absolutely pink. But I have a problem with granting this kind of access to a site that will claim selling rights over my work. I wouldn’t even be able to track it or embed copyright information into it, because Pinterest strips all embedded metadata from its files. (p.s. so does Facebook, Twitter, and others).

Think you’re safe because if anybody gets really upset and starts suing, the website will take the fall? You’re not. The Pinterest terms of use state that they are free and clear of any wrongdoing. In fact, if they get sued, not only will you have to pay to defend yourself, but you’ll have to pay to defend Pinterest, too. (Facebook has similar terms, by the by).

Pinterest is a small, growing company of 20 or so people. I understand how this can make it difficult to resolve massive issues such as this – but since they’ve already been around for a few years, and seeing as their business model appears to be built around sharing images that nobody has the rights to, I certainly hope this is something they are working on. Surely they realized this would become an issue? (Pinterest: quit calling me Shirley. Badum-bum). Recently, a petition was passed around to limit the amount of characters you could add to a pin. Turns out, people were copying entire blog posts or recipes and adding them to their pins, which eliminated the possibility of people clicking through to the actual site that was responsible for the content. Pinterest graciously implemented a character limit soon after. While I applaud this move, I feel that this was a relatively quick fix and still skirts the main issues at hand. From what I have read, they’re a conscientious team and they’re trying to do the right thing. I hope this means that significant changes for the better are in their not-too-distant plans.

If you are frustrated by the ongoing silence and lack of updates from Pinterest, and are concerned about the ethics of your Pinterest boards but lamenting the return to simple bookmarking, there may be other solutions for you:

Image Spark (in fact, when Pinterest showed up as the new kid on the block a while back, I thought: hey, another Image Spark). Image Spark differs from Pinterest in that it allows you to make your image collection private (this is a key difference that allows you to assemble your favourite images in one place while helping to avoid the more complex issues of sharing), has much more acceptable Terms (and in the FAQs, they specifically state that getting permission is your responsibility) and has the additional fun feature of personalized moodboards.

Dropmark is also showing a lot of promise. You can sign up for a free account (250MB) and have the ability to assemble a lot more than just images – and, more importantly, you have the ability to keep it private. Their Terms are also very reasonable.

As for where this leaves me, I did sign up to Pinterest not long ago to see how it works… but I haven’t pinned anything, and for the time being I don’t plan to.

To sum up:

– Just because something’s on the internet doesn’t mean that it’s free for public use – it is still protected under copyright law. Some sites share their permission policies prominently but if there is any doubt, ask.

– Not everyone wants their work to be shared on Pinterest, or any other site. It doesn’t matter what their reasons are. We have all snapped a photo or similarly created something that belongs to us. Try to be respectful of others’ wishes.

– Crediting a source, while admirable, is not enough – you should be asking permission. Drop them a line, tell them how much you love them, and ask. If they say no, move on.

– If something has a pin it button, and you know for a fact that permission has been granted, go crazy and Pinterest your pants off. If you’re unsure that a site truly has the license to share, or you come across a site that doesn’t specify whether you can pin or not – regardless of whether there is a Pinterest blockout code on it or not – ask.

Wow – you’re still here?! You super trooper, you. Thanks for sticking around. Gold star for you!


Happiness Is…

February 24th, 2012

A little snowstorm. It’s weird to say this mid-February, because I’m normally itching for spring by now, but we’ve had so little snow this year that I’m enjoying this gorgeous snowfall. Right now every last little branch is being blanketed in white sparklies, and it’s beautiful. Time to build a fire and order in. Wobbly Panda video, for funsies. Have a wonderful, cozy weekend everybody!

Snowstorm – February 2012 from The Panda Channel on Vimeo.

Sketch of the week

February 22nd, 2012

As aspired to here and committed to here, I’m kicking off a new column today where I post a sketch every week. It’s not about posting something finished, or even necessarily very good, but rather about remembering how good it feels to use a pencil (vs a mouse), get lost on a page for a few hours, explore ideas and re-sharpen my abilities – posting about it is just a great way to help keep me accountable.

Today’s inaugural post: 2H pencil, 2 hours, pinecone.

Sketch of the week: pinecone

Happy Pandaversary!

February 21st, 2012

Happy Pandaversary!

A year ago today, we took a ride to the Eastern Townships. I have since lost track of the hugs, cuddles, laughs, games, and kisses. Especially the kisses. I have watched strangers’ faces transform as we walk by – Panda brings smiles, squeals and a conversation to just about everyone she meets. We hear snippets of: I don’t like dogs, but I like that dog. If I had a dog, it would be that one. Look at that – THAT’S a dog. Best dog ever. Dog of the day. Ohhh I want that dog.

Sadly for most who ask, she’s one of a kind – as anyone who’s ever adopted a shelter dog knows. We’ve come up with breed names for her so that when people ask, we have an answer – what kind of dog is that? Oh, she’s a Fluffmaster 3000. A Fluffy McFlufferson. A rare and unobtainable Fuzzface. No matter what you call her, she’s our Panda. Happy first Panda-versary, dear Fuzzface – extra carrots after dinner today :)

p.s. If you are thinking of welcoming a pet into your family, please consider adopting a shelter animal. There are many, many loving animals out there who need forever homes. Many thanks to the Frontier Animal Society, who made life possible for Panda.

Happy Pandaversary!

Happiness Is…

February 17th, 2012

A fresh pair of afghan slipper socks. My beloved old ones were full of holes and the soles had fallen off – it was time. Toasty tootsies for under twenty bucks, yes please! Have a wonderful weekend everyone!!

Happiness Is... Afghan slipper socks

Illustration Inspiration

February 16th, 2012

Technically, this isn’t an illustration post per se – but inspiration always gets its roots from somewhere, right?

Years ago I studied Illustration & Design – it was a grueling program, and fellow classmates dropped like flies. Lucky for me, I had started the process by taking a few night classes prior to being accepted in the program so I knew what I was in for. Even luckier for me, my very first teacher turned out to be my best.

When I handed in my first assignment to Carmelo Blandino – a still life I had drawn hastily in a (very) short hour before class, I got “it’s fine, but I know you can do better” back. Incredibly, nobody had ever said this to me before. I was so surprised that I forgot to be embarrassed or insulted and proceeded to re-draw the same subject matter (my boot – I was a combat boot gal in the mid-90s) for the next class. I gave it a good 3-4 hours and, to my surprise, he was right – it was so much better that I finally felt the appropriate twinge of embarrassment when looking at the first version from the week before. I still have that sketchbook somewhere; I love comparing the two and reminding myself that we all have that potential inside of us, waiting to get hustled out.

It was so much fun to work with Carmelo in those early years – as a group, we worked on giant tableaux for a special gala at Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts in honour of their Lichtenstein exhibit. As students and teacher, weekly we challenged each other to go above and beyond in our exploration of techniques and art history. I got accepted into the full-time career program and life was crazy, but good.

Then I got sick. I was diagnosed with IBD (specifically, ulcerative colitis) halfway through my studies. Shortly after, things took a serious turn for the worst and I had to leave my job and apartment behind, then cut my school hours by more than half. I can’t really put into words what it’s like to be seriously ill for several years (and on and off ever since) and the resulting earnest gratitude I feel daily for the most mundane things as a result. I was put on additional side-effect-heavy medication just to help me make it through school, and I was fortunate to be able to stay on by special permission from the faculty – it would take an extra year for me to graduate. And graduate I did: by the skin of my teeth, with a lot of determination. I’ve led a pretty varied career path since then but those years continue to influence me, and my work, daily.

Carmelo has since left Montreal and his successful illustration and teaching career behind to immerse himself in fine arts – it’s been a real treat to watch him express himself so vividly. His work is luscious, organic, larger than life. I want to live in his paintings. My walls covet them. We keep in touch here and there, and we usually get to say hello when he comes to Montreal for one of his exhibitions. Recently, he decided to make one of his pieces available as a print – guess who snapped one up instantly.

This piece, a beautiful rendering of a vintage Dior dress, painted on an Hermes box (that is some chic recycling Carmelo!) hangs in my office and reminds me every day that I can always thrive to be better. Thank-you Carmelo :)

Dior Vintage White Dress on Hermes Box - Carmelo Blandino

In this spirit, and to honour one of the resolutions I made earlier this year, I will begin a new column next week where I post a sketch of the week. Just to keep me limber and to remind myself of the possibilities. Because there is always an abundance of possibilities :)


February 15th, 2012

We’re not the only ones who love where we live. We knew about this guy when we moved in because he’s been here since last spring, but it’s time to send him on his way – even though he’s living in an exterior structure, the ground below it is littered with styrofoam and other nest aides, and the inside of our garage is starting to smell. So we called Humane Wildlife Control and they came by today to assess the situation. They’ll be back tomorrow to send this fellow on his way. Sorry buddy, paying tenants only! Here are some pics I took one evening last fall as he watched me sweep the front walk. So long, peanut gallery.


Kern it like ya mean it

February 14th, 2012

It’s Valentine’s Day, and you know what that means? Getting competitive and playing type games, that’s what! By the by, Valentine’s Day is every day. Whether you’re with someone or not. So treat yo self and head on over to play Kerntype this very instant. You’re welcome.

Yep, that’s my score ;) Thank-you Ryan for sharing the link!

Kern Type


Happiness Is…

February 10th, 2012

A fresh haircut after too many months! Merci Chez Snips!! Have a wonderful weekend everybody!

Happiness Is... a fresh haircut

Fresh Work: Davina + Daniel

February 8th, 2012

I have long been an admirer of wedding photographers Davina + Daniel – a beautiful, talented couple, traveling, creating beautiful work together, complementing each other – so amazing. Currently they’ve just kicked off seven months of on-again off-again travel starting with Guatemala – last year had them all over the map as well, including a stop-over in Kenya where they spent some time at an orphanage. They have a sweet little dog named Coco (that I know Panda is dying to meet) and when they got married it looked like this – I mean. Really.

I was thrilled (and a little nervous!) when they contacted me to re-vamp their identity. They felt that they were outgrowing their previous look and were giving a lot of careful thought to what their needs and wants were. I love it when clients take their time with this process – it may feel like a luxury, but it’s essential for lasting results. We brainstormed with images, moodboards, font exploration and came to the conclusion that a custom font treatment was the only way to go – after all, in a sea of wedding photographers, these two are one of a kind. The goal was to convey the unique, natural and completely personal approach that Davina + Daniel give to each of their assignments – not to mention their unrelenting passion, dedication and attention to detail. Oh, and did I mention they become friends with most of their clients? Add: lots of care and joy to the mix.

Davina + Daniel logo by Girlfriday

I worked on varying the line weights to allow each letter to shine while maintaining the flow and adding some handmade detail. This logo was a lot of work (in a good way) and I really enjoyed the process. Not only that, but I really enjoyed working with Davina and Daniel – I know that as a couple it can take some extra compromising and exploring (from choosing what movie to watch to decorating your home, let alone creating your identity!), and they were very patient and supportive of each others’ likes and dislikes during the process. Thanks guys, for being such lovely clients! I hope the logo continues to make you happy!

Note: I also helped them with the design of their new site, where the focus, naturally, had to be all about the work. You can check it out here.

Can’t get enough of Davina + Daniel? You can purchase a selection of their prints here.