Boo hoo hoo. I'm sorry I'm 'stingy' because I won't let you steal my copyright!

I have a large website, with lots of photography. Especially Yosemite National Park photography.

Occasionally I catch people stealing my bandwidth (“hotlinking” my photos directly to their own web sites). I don’t like this. I have a message on EACH AND EVERY PAGE saying that no one is allowed to use my photos without my permission. I give them a feedback form where they can ask me.

But this one asshole linked to a picture of Half Dome, for a Yahoo club on backpacking. I found out. I replaced the jpg file he was stealing with a jpg file that had text on it that basically said I didn’t like him stealing my photos. (But I was polite about it - no profanity).

And now I see that (thankfully) they have replaced my photo, but the stinking thief has left this message for his other backpacking members, to explain what happened.

Thus spoke the stinking bandwidth theif:

Oh, boo hoo hoo. I didn’t like you stealing my bandwidth, and violating my copyright. And I had the audacity to find out about it, and embarrass you a little bit. Oh, boo hoo hoo. You poor put upon thing you. Stealing and violating copyright isn’t as easy as it used to be. Bummer, man. So you had to rant and complain about it. My heart bleeds for you, it really does.

You were lucky I didn’t report you to Yahoo. (Not that I think they would have done much.) How can you be SO clueless about net ettiquitte?

This must feel like when someone cuts you off driving and flips YOU the bird when you honk at them. Whatever. (that “whatever” was aimed at people with this attitude, not you, yose.)

Um, yeah. Asshole! waves the angry fist

Just wanted to pop in and say that that picture of the Stellar’s Jay is gorgeous. (Can I say “gorge” in a Yosemite thread?)

Not only is he a thief, he’s whining about being caught! Beautiful.

I feel for you, yosemitebabe. I’ve seen your pictures, and they’re great. For some shit to swipe your hard work and creativity is inexcusable.

Philip Greenspun, editor of the excellent, has a great solution to photo copyright. He acknowledges that no words on his website are going to stop the complete assholes from stealing his photos, so he tries to stop those that are thinking of it but still have an ounce of shame.

You may consider including such a note on your page.

Not to hijack the rant, but how do you catch someone hotlinking to a graphic on your web site? I have a site that’s full of photos, mostly family stuff on there for the benefit of my, well, family. But I’d be really pissed if I found out some stranger is a.) swiping my bandwidth, and b.) swiping my image for his/her own personal use.

How can I catch them?


if it is something like Geocities or Angelfire you may not be able to do it. But if you are paying for hosting your own website, usually they you can get reports that tell you other websites that are linking to your website.

Thanks, Tretiak.

My website is hosted on DellHost. I can get daily reports, but all they show is the number of requests and and the domain names from which the requests came. What do I need to look for to spot someone stealing from me? An unusual number of requests coming from a specific domain name? If I have, say, 50 requests a day coming from, how do I pinpoint the thievery to a specific user or web site?

Again, sorry for the hijack.

If you generate your code dynamically from a database, you could just keep changing the image names every time you update the site; their links will just go dead.

Actually, this is a somewhat more complex problem than the OP makes out. “Deep linking” to content on a website isn’t necessarily a copyright violation. In fact, content linking is really what the entire web is based on. We at the SDMB, for example, do it all the time.

Lots of content owners do get quite upset about this practice. Whether they are correct to do so is another question. As Mangetout points out, there are technical solutions to this problem. You could also, for example, defeat deep linking by using cookies and requiring everyone to pass through your home page. You might even do something as simple as inserting a “This photo copyright yosemitebabe 2001” across the bottom of the photo. This way, your work will be acknowledged even if someone does link. It also makes it that much harder just to steal your images.

Deep linking and including images from someone else’s sites are completely different things. Deep linking doesn’t take any bandwidth from the person linked to, nor does it violate their copyright. It could violate some sort of EULA, but most websites don’t have EULAs on them, thankfully.

Getting images stolen where the theif downloads the file and hosts it from their server is even worse, IMO, because then there’s no easy way to find out that it’s happening. Some people have no concept of intellectual property.

This thread has some ideas to stop bandwidth thieves.

Philip Greenspun’s attitude strikes me as sensible and realistic.

I cut and paste pictures from other websites for my own (non-commercial) site all the time. Mostly, they’re pretty much public domain (from product catalogs, national tourism guides, public museums, govt depts, etc). There’s a few thumbnail-size pictures by living artists that I guess I shouldn’t have used (though I credit the artists).

But my opinion is that the medium makes it so easy to copy material, that if you really don’t want people to infringe your copyright, there’s only one course of action open to you - don’t put it on the web in the first place. The medium allows amateurs (musicians, photographers, writers) to publish their work - they can’t realistically hope of charging (a few might manage to do so), but they get the 15 minutes Warhol mentioned.

For semi-professionals and people just jealous of their ownership of their work (as I would be if I had yosemitebabe’s photographic talent), this might seem like unfair competition. But it’s up to them to decide whether to use the technology. The amateurs are “playing real good for free” [copyright Joni Mitchell 1969], and no-one’s forcing other people to use the same medium. Copyright - a concept unknown to Chaucer, Shakespeare or Mozart - is essentially unenforceable on the web. It’s so easy and victimless, it’s not “theft” anymore.

Professionals need to re-think their business models. For the music industry, in particular, I think business models are going to have to change drastically. The days when people paid $15-20 for 10 pop songs are fast ending.

I have a quick question. I downloaded a picture of Mr. T from a Mr. T fan site to use for my own site. My site has nothing to do with Mr. T, but the photo kind of adds a funny touch to it. This does not appear to be a common picture of Mr. T since it’s not from anything I’ve seen him in. Should I contact the site and ask their permission or find a new picture of Mr. T or what? I don’t think this is stealing their bandwith, and if it is, it is not intentional and I will get rid of the pic ASAP. Any suggestions? Is it OK for me to keep that pic on my site?

Eh, copyrights are just a form of capitalist oppression. Yosemitebabe is a lying, cheating bourgois um… photographer!

Link? Cite? Thank you.

** Hosayf**, whether or not you are stealing their bandwidth depends (and i’m not gonna get into the copyright thing, since i don’t know).

if you saw the picture on someone’s site, saved it to your harddrive, and * uploaded it to your site and have that one linked,*, you are not stealing their bandwidth. to display the picture, it is taking your own bandwidth, since you have in on your site.

if, however, you saw the image at, and when you have it on your site, you have the image src as, ** that ** is stealing their bandwidth.

Sometimes we forget that webpages are really easy these days. People may not realize they are stealing bandwidth. (Not applicable to the OP’s situation of course. I was thinking more of the Mr T question.) Here’s a smple breakdown of the bandwidth and copyright stealing issues:

For me to access an image on my computer, it has to be stored on a server. For instance, the Straight Dope banner above is stored on the Chicago Reader’s server. Everytime I come to this site, the server sends me that picture*. This costs the Reader resources. One of these resources is bandwidth, the amount of data you can send out at one time. If the server hits a bandwidth limit, either the owner has to pay extra to their ISP or your server slowwwss waaay dowwwwn, depending on how you’re set up. That’s part of why the board is slow when it’s busy.

The code for showing an image includes a location where the image is stored. That’s what goes after src= in <img src=“whatever”> If that location is your own server or your web host’s, you are not stealing bandwidth. Stealing bandwidth would be if I put the banner ad from the SDMB up on my page and use for my src the location of the image on the Reader’s server. So everytime someone hit my page, the Reader would be forced to send that image to a computer for me. This is great for me- I’m not using my server and thus not my bandwidth- and lousy for the Reader.

The other issue in question is copyright. Using someone else’s pictures without their permission violates their copyrights. You should ask permission first.

So, in short, to avoid bandwidth theft, download the image to your own harddrive and put it on your server or webhost. To avoid copyright infringement, ask permission before you do that. Hosayf, it sounds like you did the first but not the second. You should probably bop an email over to site you got your image from, but since it’s of a celebrity, the copyright holder is most likely someone else. They may have permission from that person, or they may be using the picture without permission.

Or you could just use the pic. You aren’t doing them any direct physical harm, ie, stealing bandwidth. It’s more of an intellectual property rights thing, and since they probably don’t own the image either it’s rather abstract. You’ll have to use your own judgement - I have too many MP3s to give anyone any moral imperatives on this topic.


*Well, not really. In fact my computer often caches the image on my hard drive, saving on load time. This is irrelevant to the topic though.

yosemitebabe, why not disable the ability to “right click” on your web page?

It’s not entirely fool-proof, but people would have to be a) pretty savvy to figure out how to work around it and b) be very, VERY determined to steal that particular image.

Most often, I think the average joe would just move along and find another website to steal from before they’d go digging around in their cache or trying to find the image name in the source code.

This one doesn’t pop up a warning message, you just don’t get the menu at all, which you may prefer.

No, no, no, no, no, no and in case I’m not clear, no.

It’s not at all “fool-proof” by any stretch of the imagination. All anyone would hae to do to is click VIEW --> SOURCE and see where the picture file is, then type in the direct URL to the picture, and sae. That is not something which requires savvy or any high level of determination. It would take a grand total of maybe 20 seconds from start to finish. If I have no scruples about stealing an image, am I going to balk at another 20 seconds of work to get to it?

Furthermore, “no right click” conveniently ignores several key things:

[li]Some people don’t have a RIGHT mouse button, because their mice only have ONE button to start with. (There’s this little line of computers you might’ve heard of, they’re called Macs.) The script is rendered moot for those users and your files are just as easily snatched as they would be without the script.[/li][li]Some people surf with javascript turned off. The script is rendered moot for those users and your files are just as easily snatched as they would be without the script.[/li][li]Hi Opal![/li][li]Last, but by no means least, the visitor’s browser is theirs, not yours. There are completely legitimate uses for the right mouse button, first and foremost being navigation, but also access to browser tools, such as magnification for the visually impaired. Ability to access these right-click tools is inherent to the browser and there is no excuse for tampering with that ability, certainly not an essentially useless faux-security scheme.[/li][/list=1]

If you want to protect your images, go with legitimate methods first. Use security methods which prevent deep-linking to graphic files when they are placed in a specific graphics-only directory. Make sure that each of your photos has been watermarked (visibly or invisibly) with ownership/copyright information. Slap a well-written warning on the site, and enforce your rights at every suggestion of infringement so that people know that you’re serious. But don’t do anything silly.

Interesting responses, all!

I’ve had an extraordinarily busy day, so I cannot write too long, but I wanted to ramble about a few things…

I am trying to (kinda, half-ass) sell my photography. I’ve sold some in the past, so I do take copyright infringement seriously. I know that there will always be assholes who slip through the cracks, but my site stats tracking software will pick up the worst offenders. I know I can’t catch everyone, but some of these jerks make it SO easy, so of course I will do something when I catch them! (Like I did with the Yahoo backpacking guy.)

The earthlink site I have listed here has just a sampling of the photography I have on the other site. (Thanks, Munch, for your compliment of the Stellar’s Jay photo! It’s one of my favorites too.) This big site is with a paid web host, and I have about 50 MB of stuff on it (and growing). A huge chunk of that is photography. I could show less, but I don’t mind sharing. I am a Yosemite fanatic, and I like to share Yosemite photos. There are a lot of people who love the Park as much as I do, and I made my site for them.

I don’t mind if people look, I don’t mind if they print out a photo for their personal use, like putting it on their wall at home. I have also created special Yosemite Wallpaper, for people to display on their computers! I think I am sufficiently generous. However, I DO mind if they publish my photos without my permission, in print, or on the web, or whatever. So when I make it clear that I DO mind this (on each and every web page) and they do it anyway…I get pissed.

Kamandi - thanks for the link! I will look into that. The “Hall of Shame” this guy has for his copyright violaters is appalling.