5th March 2015: Update & message from Travel & Leisure’s Digital Director: 
“Rest assured that going forward we will not be using other people’s photos on Instagram and switching the links back to travelandleisure.com. Once we relaunch the site, we’ll have a bit more time to retroactively take links out of old pins, as well.”

New Pins seem to be sticking to the regular terms & conditions, only the old pins still not link to the original source.

Here is the full Story

We Love Social Media – and then this happened

One of our photos, which we shared on Instagram, was used on Pinterest by Travel and Leisure.

First it looked great, as we love when someone is sharing our photo. Then I checked and the credit was given wrong. The @ was missing in front of the name. Like that nobody would ever find us, the original source! Strangely Travel + Leisure actually Do Know how to be “courteous” but only when the photo is from their own staff.

Not great, but nothing to be too upset about… until:

Then I saw the text beneath the photo saying: “Found on travelandleisure”. ???? So I clicked on OUR photo and got forwarded to a page on Travel + Leisure about Best Caribbean Resorts and Hotels. This is blatant misuse of Social Media!

So Travel + Leisure misused our photo to drive traffic to their website from Pinterest and they didn’t credit us right. Tough to believe as T+L is not a really small publication and should really know better.

Still a bit shocked I send them an email:

Hi A*****, (who is the Deputy Digital Editor)
I’m running Traveldudes.org and someone of your team has taken one of our Instagram photos for your Pinterest board:
(pic is taken down now, but see the screenshot above or see more misused pics of Traveldudes here)
But the link goes not back to the original source, but to your content. Please fix this and let me know, otherwise I will report this to Pinterest.
Here are Pinterest copyright conditions:
It would as well be appreciated, if you would give proper credit by adding the user name with an @, if you are already using our images.
Melvin Böcher

misuse of social media - The Misuse of Social Media - #TLPicks
The Misuse of Social Media - #TLPicks

The reply came on the same day from P**** who is the Director of Editorial Product Development, five more T+L folks were copied in:

“On behalf of our social media editor G**** B****, who’s out of the office, I’m responding to your email about your Instagram photo, which we’ve reposted on our Pinterest board.
We encourage our Instagram followers to share their travel photos using the hashtag #TLPicks (as you have) and include our own social media terms and conditions with the request. These terms give us the right to repost the content on our other social channels, including Pinterest. We always provide credit where possible, and indeed we have in this case: our caption reads “Is it summer yet? Photo courtesy of traveldudes on Instagram.”

We can add the “@” symbol in front of your handle; however, I don’t believe that doing so creates a link to your Instagram account. (Melvin: No, it does not, but it would have linked to my Pinterest account & you could have linked the photo itself to our Instagram account, just like how Pinterest is set up!)

Per Time Inc. policy, our pinned images point back to our own content at travelandleisure.com. If you would prefer for us to remove the image from Pinterest entirely, please let us know and we would be happy to do so. It is never our intention to take credit for the work of others or to share without attribution or prior consent.
Please let me know if you have any questions, and accept my apologies for any misunderstanding.
P**** F****

Verdict – misuse of social media

Wow! So T+L is having their own social media terms and conditions, which they use on Instagram and Pinterest! I wonder if that’s legal, because then I could do the same:

Hi P****,
thanks for your reply and taking a look at the copyright issue.
Pinterest is a social platform to “pin” photos, often from posts. So I highly doubt that it’s OK to take someone else’s image and link to your own website.

It’s not enough to have somewhere your “own” terms & conditions listed. I doubt that Pinterest is aware of this practice and I’ve asked my social media managers. They have never heard or seen your terms.

Let’s assume that Pinterest is fine with your own terms & conditions. When using a third platform (Pinterest), you can’t hide somewhere your terms & conditions on your site. You need to inform users of those regularly. Do you do this? (Melvin: It seems they do, but nobody knows those)
Please keep also in mind that you don’t “own” a hashtag. A hashtag is a keyword, which can’t be owned. I also don’t own #TTOT, though I’ve created it.

So pretty nobody knows or cares about your Per Time Inc. policy, as you are using Pinterest and Instagram.
There are people working hard publishing good quality content. You should know best how tough the publishing world got. With your practice, you are doing not a favor for other publishers.
Please rethink your social media strategy and approach.
But thanks a lot again for your reply. I’m happy to discuss this further.

After that they send another short email, that the link with their terms is in their profile and blablabla. I replied a reply with my blablabla that nobody is aware of their terms and that I will create my own terms for #TLPicks and #TLWorldsBest, both hashtags they use for the misuse of social media – or stealing other people’s content.

But I have a better idea!

I could use #TTOT (Travel Talk on Twitter), which I created. There are around 70,000 #TTOT tweets every week, reaching around 970,275,075 accounts per month and which create lots of awesome content for me. I just need to add my terms & conditions somewhere.

No I won’t do this, of course!

And this is NOT about a single photo we posted! If you want it, please take it for your use, just credit @traveldudes! 😉

We Love Social Media and when our images are shared! Social media changed publication and big publications have a tough life making a living. Journalists, photographers fight damn hard to make a living and to get paid for their work. With social media you often don’t get paid anymore for the content you create, but you can get paid for the exposure. That’s why I love when someone shares our content. BUT it needs to be credited AND linked back to the original source!!!

It seems that Travel + Leisure’s Pinterest’s boards are full of other people’s Instagram photos! I would guess around 80% and that all those are not linking back to the original source! There are hundreds being treated very unfairly and missing out on traffic and gaining new followers. They are allowing a misuse of social media at the expense of hundreds of others.

They are brutal!

T+L took my pinned photo down now and with this I can not inform Pinterest via their DMCA notification form, as you have to include links, which are now not existing anymore. Before I had added Pinterest in my email to T+L, but I never got a response.

So I contacted Pinterest directly via personal email, but each time I got forwarded to their DMCA notification form, though I had explained that I can’t fill it out (because of the missing links), and informed them that T+L still misuses hundreds of Instagram user photos, not linking back to the original source.

Their response: “If those content owners submit a copyright request to us, we’ll be sure to process their requests right away…. We certainly don’t condone the misuse of other people’s content and that’s why we remove content immediately upon notification of infringement by the content owner. If we receive multiple complaints, an account may be subject to suspension. However, absent a notification, we’re not in a position to know whether a particular use is authorized or not. ”

So only content owners are allowed to inform Pinterest! That’s like I only get into jail for stealing a car, when the car owner reports me. What if he was asleep and the neighbor identified me, saw how I stole the car and informed the police? Can I then keep the car? 😉

That is hilarious and Pinterest simply don’t give a **** about copyright, if you ask me.

misuse of social media - The Misuse of Social Media - #TLPicks
The Misuse of Social Media - #TLPicks

Looking at the bigger picture!

There are hundreds probably thousands of online publishers and bloggers out there, working damn hard every day to make a living. The media is in a huge change right now and everyone tries to find ways which allow to pay their bills. It is possible and even doing so successful. I think we are a good example for this. But there are specific rules, which people have to respect.

By taking the photos for free from hundreds Instagram users, a publication like T+L saves thousands of dollars per year. It’s not understandable that a publication fights so extreme against other content creators. And it’s sad to see that the content creators are so left alone, still in a tough fight to make a living, missing out on exposure which would help them. They are allowing the misuse of social media at what cost?

Other examples of the misuse of social media

Not just in this case!

Here Travel + Leisure misuses a picture from the Planet D, which was re shared by @travelbreak on Instagram (with proper credit).

It seems that you don’t even have to use the #TLPicks hashtag! Here is the original photo of JustTravelous: https://instagram.com/p/xEJ8XWhCJF/ As you see, the hashtag was not used! Here you’ll find it on T&L Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/158329743126024475/  

It’s not Travel + Leisure alone doing stuff like that! It seems that @VillaLotus found this awesome photo on @500px. They even cropped out the watermark! Then this image was pinned by Travel + Leisure to drive traffic to their site again.

Or here, where a beautiful picture from @VelvetEscape was re shared with proper credit, but @ForeignFocus watermarked it with their logo! With that this image is branded as property of @ForeignFocus, though the credit says something else!

People talk about those issues, also online. Companies seems to have no clue how much they damage their own reputation, but also the one from online media. Often the internet seems to be a law free space, but it’s not. Actually it’s the opposite, where each country got their own laws for the internet. That makes it not better, as those laws are mostly taken from the old days with traditional media usage, now used for new media. That does NOT work either!

misuse of social media - The Misuse of Social Media - #TLPicks
The Misuse of Social Media - #TLPicks

Here is a legal perspective from my friend

“I was a government investigator for 12 years. I investigated businesses engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct. Though the terms and conditions are put on the profile page on such platforms on Facebook and Twitter, this may be insufficient.
For example, a reasonable person seeing a mention of @TravlandLeisure on Twitter is not going to read @TravlandLeisure’s profile page before responding to the tweet. Any citing of  @TravlandLeisure means that they have complete use of such content, though it has occurred  without the knowledge of the content’s source.

The practice, which goes against accepted practice on Social Media, coupled with the inability to make important terms re the use of photos and videos easily available, puts Travel + Leisure at risk of contravening Australia’s Competition and Consumer Act. The wording of the consumer protection provisions re misleading or deceptive conduct of this Act is largely replicated in other jurisdictions such as Northern America, Europe and New Zealand.”

I think everyone should just consider logical and good behavior. Share, but play fair, credit and link back to the original source! And if someone sees that it’s not be done, do not think that you don’t have a voice… Hey! This is Social Media! You DO have a voice and a right! So contact the troublemaker and inform the platform’s owner!

Anyone can make a mistake, so give them a chance to change it. Do not fall victim to the misuse of social media.

Hopefully they will!


  • Travel Dudes

    I'm sure you've had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You're in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.

    View all posts I'm sure you've had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You're in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.