After being battered by complaints from photographers and other copyright holders, popular sharing site Pinterest is reforming its terms of service, asking users to only post content they created, or content they have explicit permission to publish. (See the changes here.) That marks a 180-degree turn for the fast-growing site, which reached 17.8 million unique users in February, and now admits that "it may have encouraged users to pin content that didn't belong to them," says Steve Eder at The Wall Street Journal. Clearly, the company is trying to protect itself and its users from potential lawsuits. But can image-heavy Pinterest survive without copyrighted material?

This could kill Pinterest: Many rightsholders "probably just don't care" that Pinterest users are ripping off their stuff, says John Herrman at Buzzfeed. But that doesn't make these practices legal. And remember, the copyrighted images that dominate the social sharing site are critical to its success. Can you imagine Pinterest without all these pretty pictures? If Pinterest "fully and actively enforced" its new rules, it could well "destroy the site."
"What does Pinterest look like without copyrighted content?"

But users won't play by the rules: Pinterest is covering its legal bases, says Erik Sherman at CBS News. But most users still "have no concept of what copyright actually entails and assume that anything on the web is fair game." Plus, there's no guarantee that people will actually read, let alone abide by, the new rules. "Maybe the company can pin it on each user's board as a friendly reminder."
"Pinterest tightens copyright rules"

At least this is a sign of Pinterest's maturity: "Few internet sensations can rival the viral success of Pinterest, which in recent months has catapulted to be the 59th most popular website in the world," says Christina DesMarais at Macworld. Any site that grows that quickly is sure to face "growing pains," and Pinterest is no exception. At least these rules show that the site's creators are taking its new responsibilities seriously.
"Pinterest responds to copyright concerns, updates terms of service"