OK, let me try to explain. Have a seat, this will take a while.
All webpages rely on files to make them up. If you make a web page of your own, almost all of the files will “live” on the server you have used to connect it to the net (most often, the server of your ISP, which is why your web page is likely to be called something like Yourname.yourisp.com).
Here at the SDMB, almost everything is stored on the server owned and maintained by the Chicago Reader. When you load this page, the SDMB looks at the Reader’s hard drive to get the files that contain the formatting of the page, the gray and white lines, the graphics, and even the data that makes up these posts.
But it doesn’t have to work that way. A web page can be told to look anywhere on the internet for the information. So if you use the image tags to include a picture of your cat, what you are really doing is telling the Straight Dope software on the Chicago Reader’s server to go look up the cat picture at "catpic.yourname.yourisp.com) and print it out as an image in the right place of each viewer’s browser. So each browser, in addition to looking at the SDMB, “peeks” at your page to get the cat.
And that’s fine. Because since you own the picture and pay for the yourname.yourisp.com site, you consent to your site being pinged and your image being loaded. You consented to that when you included the image tags on this message board.
But what if you load something else? Say, a picture of a cat from the Cincinnati Zoo? Well, now you are giving the instructions, but the site owner (the zoo) has not given permission. A few sites give “general” permissions – they say on the site that anyone can load images from them as long as credit is given. Other sites will give you permission if you ask them. For example, I’ll bet that most companies would allow you to post an image of their logo as long as you said nice things about it (do NOT try this with Disney). But technically, you are supposed to ask unless they have a general permission posted.
In this case, what happened is that one or more people posted a smilie from another site without asking permission. Other members, thrilled by the new smilie, copied it to other threads. But the smilies are stolen. And remember, they are not really “here” on this message board’s server. All that is “here” is the instruction to go look them up on the other server. Just as you can, anytime you want, replace the picture of the cat on your website, the smilie owners can change the picture on their site. In this case, they changed the picture to include a registration screen. So now, every time our site asks their site to send the image, we get the registration screen.
When ursa talked about being close to a hacker, he wasn’t talking about them. He was talking about us. We’re the hackers, or thieves, or whatever, in this case.
Perhaps this board has grown too big to allow for the continued use of images. I don’t know; that’s not my call. It would be a pity, but not as bad as people seeing Cecil as an abettor to bandwidth theft. Time will tell.
NYC IRL III
is on April 15th. Do you have what it takes?