Pinterest Updates Terms of Service to Allow Business Accounts

Pinterest, the social networking site on which users post and share pictures on virtual "pin boards," has updated its terms of service to allow business accounts and commercial activity.

Those who want to use Pinterest for commercial purposes - i.e., to drive traffic to their own websites to promote sales - must now convert their individual accounts to business accounts. Business accounts come with exclusive widgets, for example, businesses can add a "Pin it" or "Follow" button to their websites to encourage clicks. Business account holders can also visit their Pinterest "source page" to see which of their products have been pinned most often.

The new Pinterest business page states: "We want to help you get the most out of your business," and it highlights how featured businesses like Allrecipes and Etsy use Pinterest to draw customers. In one example, travel web site Jetsetter invited more than a million Pinterest members to create pin boards of their dream vacations in various categories, with the best boards winning a prize. Jetsetter followers pinned more than 50,000 images in less than a month, and Jetsetter page views increased by 150 percent, according to Pinterest.

Pinterest was launched in 2009, and, with more than 27 million unique visitors in July, is the fastest-growing social media site, according to a Nielsen report.  Pinterest's mission is to "connect everyone in the world through the 'things' they find interesting."

Business account holders are still subject to Pinterest's Acceptable Use Policy and Terms of Service. Under its Logos, Trademarks and Marketing Guidelines, business account users may not suggest Pinterest is sponsoring or endorsing promotions and must discourage spam by not running contests or promotions that ask pinners to re-pin, "like," or comment repeatedly. Pinterest also directs businesses not to run contests or promotions "too often," although how often is too often is not clear.

Pinterest's new business account policies do not specify how it plans to enforce these rules. Additionally, the site notes, "if you use Pinterest as part of a contest or sweepstakes, you are responsible for making sure it complies with all legal requirements."

Under the new terms of service, business account holders are not provided any additional recourse against copyright infringers on the site.  Pinterest says it conforms with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by responding "expeditiously" to copyright complaints and provides an online form for reporting infringement. Individual users retain responsibility for material they pin under Pinterest's Terms of Service, but the site says it will shut down users with repeated complaints.

But, as some attorneys and commentators have  pointed out, companies looking to capitalize on the traffic driven by Pinterest may be interested not in preventing copying anyway, but in making sure their images - and products - get shared.