Social media week, pinning lawyers and is it the end of Death Row Dinners?

As every tech-savvy lawyer knows, this week is social media week in London. All over the capital, events and conferences are taking place aimed at highlighting the benefits of using social media on a personal and business level.

While SJ’s editor at large has been sampling the delights of the ‘Silicon Roundabout’ (not far from SJ Towers), and speaking on maximising employee engagement through social media, I was invited to a social media/men’s fashion event in the barber shop Ruffians near Covent Garden.

The event was organised by social media network, Pinterest. For those of you who don’t know, Pinterest is a virtual ‘scrapbook’, or pinboard-styled social photo sharing network, that allows its users (Pinners) to pin everything from accessories, household décor, wedding planning and tasty recipes to ‘boards’ on their profile pages.

These boards can then be shared with the estimated 70 million people worldwide that use the site. Pinterest describes itself as ‘a place to discover ideas for all your projects and interests, hand-picked by people like you’. But it is not just individuals that use this social media goliath, but major brands too, such as Virgin, Mercedes Benz and McDonalds. Even the White House has its own page.

But what of the legal profession? Solicitors are taking to Pinterest, albeit a little slower than other social media giants such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. EAD Solicitors, Inksters Solicitors and Winn Solicitors are just some of the law firms that have already caught the pinning bug.

Why you might ask? Well, Pinterest’s format makes it ideal for sharing visual information; everything from profiles of staff members to office space can be shared instantaneously with links back to a firm’s website. Furthermore, any articles or news produced by the firm can be pinned and used as another conduit to reach perspective clients.

Pinning controversy

As with any social media network there have been some worries. The most pressing has been the issue of potential copyright infringement as any pinner can share content that may be subject to copyright protection.

In 2012, lawyer and photographer, Kirsten Kowalski, deleted her Pinterest account after investigating the site’s copyright policy. After browsing Pinterest’s terms of use she found the site’s users are solely responsible for what they pin and re-pin and must have explicit permission from the content owner.

Moreover, Pinterest placed all blame and potential legal fees on its users. Meaning that if a content owner sued a pinner for using an image subject to copyright on Pinterest, the pinner must not only pay for their lawyer, they must also pay for Pinterest’s too.

The network’s terms of use have since undergone a makeover or two and the issue of copyright infringement seems to be a little clearer. Content owners can now submit a form to the site with evidence that they own the work. Pinterest will then delete the pin and the offending pinner is told as to why they are missing one of their favourite pictures – as will any pinner who has re-pinned the original pin.

Whether it is providing legal advice to the site, the owners of the pins that form it or just being used as part of a firm’s marketing strategy, Pinterest, as with any social media network, is a potential gold mine for lawyers. You should ignore this opportunity at your own peril.

As for the Monday night event, I can report that it was highly enjoyable, with an interesting mix of fashionistas, tech-types, hipsters and even more than one journalist. Gin cocktails and organic scotch eggs flowed and rolled and there were even a few free haircuts for those that required it.

Last meal

The evening was also far from controversial, unlike Death Row Dinners which appears to have shut down despite a statement appearing over the weekend seemingly condemning the criticism it has received online.

“The severity of the reaction is not at all surprising in the current world of instant outrage but cancelling the event only supports this short-termism currently infecting the population. All over the world there are attractions that have the potential to offend. Some people go on a tour of the White House, others go to Jefferson state penitentiary for tours of the chamber where executions take place.

“If you don’t like it, it’s very simple, just don’t go. Concentrate on what you do like, not what you don’t. Death Row Dinners was created to appeal to an audience who would not be offended by the concept. It seems there are plenty of people out there who aren’t, because they are buying tickets and sending hundreds of email supporting us.”

Whether the organisers had yet another change of heart or felt the guillotine come down on themselves from their financial backers or the local authority, we may never know. But goodbye and good riddance anyway.

This blog was first published in the Solicitors Journal on 25 September 2014 and is reproduced with kind permission.