Social Media sites each come with their own long, complex terms of service intended to protect the providers and define how your content can be used. On April 6th, Pinterest will be introducing a brand new set of their own; we had our Director of Social Media interpret the legal-ese so that you don’t have to:

First off, the Pinterest legal department has done an awesome job of writing their legal section in very readable, everyday language. If you feel like sifting through this stuff yourself, the link is here.

There are a few main things to look for in every terms of service where you are going to be sharing content:

Who Owns My Content?

“Content” is a bit of a social media nerd term. What I mean by content is photos, writing, videos or any other media that you can share online.

Ownership is a bit of a double-edged sword; people were furious when they found out that everything that they post on Facebook effectively becomes the property of Zuckerberg. Not so, in the case of Pinterest. Everything that you pin on Pinterest still belongs to you.

The risk there is that means you have to be extra careful about what you pin. Any legal trouble that comes up as a result of your content could potentially be placed on you. For example: if you find an image that you really like on Google and pin it, it gets re-pinned, re-pinned again, then a magazine finds it and publishes that image and they get sued for copyright infringement, you may be held at least partially liable.

Pins that you post from sites can be safe because they link back to the source, but be careful when you’re uploading images. Make sure that you have the right to claim it as your own.

What Can Pinterest Do With My Content?

Pretty much anything that they want, as long as it has to do with their business.

Pinterest has the right to use anything, any way, and modify as long as its “for the purposes of operating and providing the Service(s) to you and to our other Users.”

That means that your original graphic could well appear on the home page of Pinterest, or in an advertisement, if they decide that they want to use it. No permission, or even notification is owed to you – it’s all theirs.

How Secure is My Information?

Not bad. Essentially, Pinterest can access and use your personal information for their own business operations any way that they want, but they can’t share it with the public.

The personal information that they have access to is, of course, everything that you enter when you sign up, but also every network that you connect to your Pinterest account. That means that if you use Facebook or Twitter to login, they can store everything that’s on your Facebook or Twitter accounts, including your login credentials.

The issue of “third parties” comes up with social networks, especially after platforms like Path have been accused of spreading people’s email addresses and other information around to people looking to use it to market directly to you.

Fortunately, Pinterest may not shore any of your personal information with any third party not associated with them. They can share statistical info like: “How many males in Vancouver use Pinterest?” but they can’t tell anyone who those people are.

What Happens when I Hit Delete?

This became a burning question when people found out that accounts on Facebook weren’t actually deleted when users deactivated them. Facebook could continue to use the content however they liked.

The situation is similar with Pinterest: when you delete a photo, a video, or even your who account, the information is no longer visible or searchable, but it continues to exist on the Pinterest servers for a “reasonable” amount of time.

No time frame is given for what Pinterest considers to be reasonable, and they continue to have the same rights to use your content as they did when your account was live.

So What?

As with anything on the internet, be careful about what you are sharing because it can show up anytime, anywhere. Also, don’t pretend that other people’s stuff is yours. The sharable nature of Pinterest amplifies the risks that you take when you steal content.

Nothing in the new Terms of Service are particularly surprising, or scary, so I recommend that you just have fun with it as long as you know that what you’re sharing you’re potentially sharing with the entire world.

What’s Next?

Finally, there were two interesting bits of information included about what’s to come: Pinterest API and Private Pinboards.

They’ve built in wording that makes it possible for Pinterest to do things like Pinterest buttons on websites and Who Has Pinned This widgets, much like what Twitter and Facebook has already done.

Why they’d create private Pinboards confuses me a bit. Private Twitter accounts are somewhat ridiculous in my opinion and these look to be no different. Who knows what the Pinterest guys have up their sleeves, but when it comes out, I’ll let you know.

This article is intended to reflect the opinion of the writer and should not serve as legal advice or as a substitute for reading any agreement yourself. Always be aware of what your rights are and protect your information.