What do Harold Davis and Georgia O’Keeffe have in common on Pinterest, and how is Pinterest going to make money, anyway?

Actually, I don’t really care how Pinterest plans to make money, although in the light of the rest of this story it is worth noting that Pinterest has a private market value believed to be north of $10 Billion. Yes, that is Billion, as in a ten with nine zeros after it.

In case you’ve been doing your best to ignore social media on the Internet, the idea behind Pinterest is that users create virtual bulletin boards, and then “pin” images that are copied from a variety of sources onto these boards. I haven’t heard any cogent analysis of how this will make money, but I do know that plenty of my images are used this way without my permission…including one photo of a rose that is commonly mistaken for a Georgia O’Keeffe painting

A rose is a rose is a rose, except when it is not. A Harold Davis rose photo is apparently a Georgia O’Keeffe rose painting when you search Google Images for “Georgia O’Keeffe” (opens in a separate window, may be a number of rows down) except when it is actually Kiss from a Rose by Harold Davis (shown below). I’m really pretty flattered by the association, as Georgia O’Keeffe is certainly one of my great artistic heroes.

Kiss from a Rose © Harold Davis

Kiss from a Rose © Harold Davis

I was alerted to my photo made in homage to O’Keeffe being mistaken for a literal O’Keeffe by a reader who wrote, “Hi Harold! Love your Rose Photography. I see on Google your work is confused with Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings!” While this case of mistaken artistic identity mostly involves Kiss from a Rose, some of my other images such as Eye of the Rose and even the book cover for my Photographing Flowers also occasionally show up categorized as O’Keeffe’s.

The conflation of Harold Davis photos with Georgia O’Keeffe paintings get even more pronounced on Pinterest, where a number of “boards” have “pinned” my image as a Georgia O’Keeffe’s. (See www.pinterest.com/terper1234/georgia-o-keeffe/ (my rose is called “a lush red O’Keeffe”), www.pinterest.com/nicolenotch/artist-o-keefe/ (once again my rose is ascribed to O’Keeffe) as examples, although this Pinterest Fakes and Mistakes board notes correctly that “NOT GEORGIA O’KEEFFE >>> this is a photo by Harold Davis”).

I am in fact of two minds about this issue. On the one hand, obviously it is good publicity for me that people like my work enough to pin it on their Pinterest boards. And, as I noted, I am certainly flattered to be compared with O’Keeffe.

On the other hand, it is hard enough to make money as a living artist these days when one is up against the common Internet dogma that information “wants to be free.” Ascribing to this theory across the board leads to a rush to the bottom. As a hint folks: ultimately this means no more quality visual art, literature, or music.

The TOS on Pinterest claims that each user (e.g., someone who creates a board) is responsible for obtaining permission to use work, but of course people just ignore this, and go ahead and scrape imagery off the sites where I post. I doubt anyone at Pinterest really believes that users are going to get permission, and posting this TOS is just el poo-poo del toro to try to ward off copyright lawsuits. Which someone should really do, and take Pinterest to the cleaners for the intellectual property scamsters they are.  Or, Pinterest could prove they care about artistic creation by setting up a financial pool to reward artists whose work is used on their site.

What do you think about this? I know that many of my readers are Pinterest users. Am I out to lunch on this one?

This entry was posted in Business of Art, Writing.


  1. Nancy Goodenough April 15, 2015 at 10:20 am #

    Harold, I would find it very interesting to read about experiences you might have sending DMCA take-down notifications, both to individuals and blogs with advertising. I realize you need to maintain a positive public profile, yet want to maintain the commercial viability of your work. Unfortunately, the public generally does not understand copyright or what they think is ”fair use.” I support your protecting your copyright.

  2. Liz from NZ August 6, 2019 at 2:43 pm #

    In the past I’ve worked in a commercial photo library so I’m well aware of copyright issues and also the huge amount of work that goes into producing the best images. Having asked your permission a number of times now, in advance, and having been met with kindness and generosity, I’m sad that you and your work, in these instances, are being treated with such disrespect. There’s no excuse..it’s so easy to touch base with you and discuss usage.

  3. Harold Davis August 6, 2019 at 6:44 pm #

    Thanks for your kind comment. I can understand individuals not respecting IP rights, although they need to be educated. But this is hard to fathom in a professional organization like the second example in my story. In any case, it is always a great pleasure to hear from you, and I appreciate your interest in my work!

5 Trackbacks

  1. By Sweet Pea after O’Keeffe on May 26, 2015 at 9:53 am

    […] seeing some of my photos mistaken for O’Keeffe’s luscious flower paintings, I took another look at the wondrous botanical art of Georgia O’Keeffe. The sensuous, indeed […]

  2. […] Also, Pixsy cannot collect licensing fees from DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) common carrier sites, although they can and will help with DMCA take-down notices. (For more about the DMCA, and how it seems to enable theft of my work on Pinterest, see my blog story on this subject.) […]

  3. […] catchall that Pixsy doesn’t think there is a “statistical likelihood of recovery”; and malefactors like Pinterest who hide behind the noxious common carrier provisions of the DMCA. Phyllis has most often been […]

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  5. By Rose Rose in Rose and in Black and White on September 26, 2017 at 11:21 am

    […] in these roses intrigued me, and I decide to photograph up close. My “Georgia O’Keeffe” red rose was something of a stylistic […]

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