The Image Hotlinking Underbelly of the Web


I started checking my referer logs (okay, actually technorati, google analytics, and my hosting providers webstats) — and it seems that this image (the one in my previous memorial day post) of a gravestone at the Raleigh National Cemetery that I took in May 2004 has spread like wildfire.

That’s actually a wonderful thing. I license the image under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license that Flickr facilitates — which would be all well and good — spread the image far and wide, in my mind — just attribute or link back to Flickr where the copyright terms and author information is.

However, it seems that the one that was stored in the WordPress uploads directory for a previous iteration of my Memorial Day Page from last year is suddenly getting hotlinked in the most far-flung forums that you could imagine (and I’m amazed at how many communities pop up all over the place). While I know all about the rewrite rules to play fun games with that — I’m just not into redirecting those image requests to nastygrams, lolcats or worse — and I don’t yet want to restrict images to my own site (because that tends to break the feed readers)

For this case I just yanked the images and will let them 404. My little tiny long tail site is still well under the bandwidth cap — but I don’t need a bunch of image hotlinks. Especially the multi-thousand hotlinks from myspace — let them go to flickr or attributed derivative works. It’s annoying enough that they violate the Creative Commons terms — but bandwidth leeching makes it doubly so.

I knew this kind of stuff happened. But it’s amazing to see how it spreads like it does.

I may track this for a while yet. I’ve see a few unattributed reworks also — some are just inclusions of the image without attribution in blogs. I sent a note or two to the bloggers inviting them to link to the flickr image under the Creative Commons terms. Some are just incredibly ugly PC-paint borders around it with flashing text meant for myspace layouts. But I’m really not the kind of person oriented to doing DMCA takedowns — not for this at least (although doing selective enforcement for those sites that violate my aesthetic tastes crossed my mind multiple times 😉 ) If it helps folks honor our fallen soldiers for Memorial Day, then so be it I guess (of course, I say that and watch some fool next year pass it off to a media outlet as their own)

Of course, what will be really annoying is if someone else tries a DMCA takedown on me for my own image.

[update: I decided to wrap the most-hotlinked one with a copyright and link text. I’d like to see how far it’s spread after a bit — and while I still have bandwidth in my account, it’ll be interesting to parse the logs on it]