Flickr appears to be the first of what you’d call a “major” website to employ a meta tag that keeps copyright-protected images from being pinned on Pinterest.
As VentureBeat first reported, Flickr is using the “nopin” meta tag that Pinterest just introduced earlier this week. When Pinterest sees the tag on a web page, none of the photos can be pinned directly from the page.
Flickr is adding the “nopin” tag to photo pages that are marked as private, marked as non-safe, and — this is the most common implementation — on pages of Flickr users whose privacy settings don’t allow photos to be shared socially. If the Flickr user has set his/her images as able to be shared, then the meta tag doesn’t show up.
I’d be hesitant to position this as any kind of “battle” between two popular photo/image sites, or to suggest that Flickr is doing this proactively to try to harm Pinterest. In fact, it looks as if Flickr actually implemented “nopin” in response to a user suggestion in Flickr’s help forum three days ago.
What Is Flickr Blocking?
Flickr shared this statement Friday with VentureBeat:
“Flickr has implemented the tag and it appears on all non-public/non-safe pages, as well as when a member has disabled sharing of their Flickr content. This means only content that is ‘safe,’ ‘public’ and has the sharing button enabled can be pinned to Pinterest.”
Here’s how it all looks in action: The photos in my Flickr account are open to sharing via the privacy settings in my Flickr account. So, a Pinterest user can pin them right from my Flickr account.
But one of my Flickr friends, Ben, has turned sharing off in his settings. If I try to pin one of his images, I get the standard message that Pinterest shows when it finds the “nopin” meta tag.
As we pointed out earlier this week, the “nopin” meta tag only stops pinning directly from the page where an image is hosted. It doesn’t prevent users from downloading (or screenshooting) an image and then uploading it to Pinterest from their computer.
Also note that, if you’re logged in to Flickr, you can always share your own images — that includes directly pinning them — no matter what your privacy settings are; those settings only affect what other users can do.
What About Creative Commons?
One thing that’s not clear to me is how Creative Commons licensing impacts this — if at all. My Flickr photos are generally licensed for others to use via Creative Commons, so long as the other party provides attribution. A pinned photo does include attribution back to the original Flickr URL.
I’m in the middle now of testing what effect that has — does it override my sharing settings? Well, I’ve just turned off sharing from my personal account and logged in as another Flickr user. I was still able to pin an image that was being offered via Creative Commons, and I was unable to pin an image that I set as “Copyright/all rights reserved.”
It may be that Creative Commons licensing overrides the sharing setting, or it may be that the change I made in my privacy settings just hasn’t fully processed yet.