Exciting Things You Don’t Know About Hotlinking


Readers, I had hoped I was going to post my first installment of the Rhapsody Failure Memoirs, Part 1, for this meeting of the salon, but the whole thing—the failures, and my memoir about them—is taking longer than I planned. There’s work and there are children. The more I feed Brioche and Tannery, the more they want to be fed, trapping us all in a vicious cycle.

In theory, I should be able to finish by the end of January, since winter has now arrived at its ass-dragging, post-holiday infinity. As I write this, my poor Mr. Roboto is trying to leave a conference in a part of the American south that never sees snow or ice and is now socked in by both. Actually, he has probably abandoned hope for the night and is bedding down on the floor of Terminal D, which, since it was never designed for use in a winter storm, is about as snug as a poolside cabana. He and a hundred other sweaty, homesick engineers will spend the night using t-shirts stuffed with a week’s worth of dirty socks for pillows, and by morning they will have worked out how to make de-icing fluid out of Gatorade and Chicklets.

But he’ll make it home eventually, and I will get back to my Failing and Memoiring, right about, oh, tomorrow or the next day. In the meantime, since we’re all here and I made all these excellent parmesan cheese wafers, I’ll give short and extremely useful talk on my recent studies of image copyright. Rhapsody’s principled approach to the law is all the more admirable because, as a blogger with a modest following (hi, mom!) our chance of being observed doing anything—legal or not—is practically nonexistent.

So grab a throw pillow and get comfy. The hot chocolate is in the thermos on the sideboard. Un-spiked today: I’m doing the Gwyneth Cleanse!

* * * *

As I have said before, I am very, very serious about rule following. More to the point, I respect people who make things and do not want to upset them. So I asked my attorney—well, an attorney—what he thought my chances were of being fined and penalized if I posted copyrighted images on a blog without obtaining permission and he said, “Practically none, in your case.” Which I know he meant very nicely. He also said, “Nothing in this email should be construed as legal advice, which I absolutely cannot give to you. You are placing me in a very awkward position.”

With this clear summary of my legal rights and responsibilities, I decided it would be good to gain some idea of what this looks like from the artist’s side. So I asked a photographer I know how he feels when people upload his work without permission. He said, and I quote, that nothing made him want to “hit people in the face with a shovel” as much as this kind of theft.

Stumped by his equivocation and vaguery, and hoping to understand if hotlinking or inline linking of images might be the answer, I tweeted the judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and they tweeted right back, “Dude! Perfect 10, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc. Nuf said.”

Later they elaborated on my Facebook wall that “While in-line linking and framing may cause some computer users to believe they are viewing a single Google webpage, the Copyright Act…does not protect a copyright holder against [such] acts….”

In essence, the difference between using an outright stolen image file and a hotlinked one is the difference between me stealing cash from your purse and spending it, vs. me simply pretending to be you as I present your credit card around town and just never telling you about it. Which is obviously fine.

Still, Rhapsody is not taking chances. It seems WordPress isn’t either, since I cannot find one of those singing, dancing little widget creatures to hotlink pictures for me, and I certainly don’t have the patience to do it myself. Besides, who wants to send a photographer into a shovel-brandishing rage, just so she can support lazy writing with stolen photos that are being enslaved to do the work for her? I’m better than that.

See? A little daub of elitism at the pulse-points and problem solved. Which seems as good a point as any to return to my work on the Rhapsody Failure Memoirs.



P.S.. I didn’t send you to this site, but if you want to see some beautiful work by a photographer I may or may not know, and who absolutely will not hurt anyone with a shovel or any other garden tool—you could go here and enjoy his truly gorgeous work, and bring him the rest of the parmesan cheese wafers, with my compliments.

P.P.S. What about the photo at the top? It’s a jelly fish from East Timor and it has absolutely nothing to do with anything. I just thought it was beautiful. Also, it might represent a Hotlinking Widget in the wild. Here is the proper credit, which I offer with sincere thanks: By Nick Hobgood (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.


One thought on “Exciting Things You Don’t Know About Hotlinking

  1. Many thanks for the link. I don’t even mind hotlinking as a general principle. It’s perfectly allowed per Flickr’s TOS and even expected. Flickr is an image sharing site by it’s nature and anything you put on there should be expected to run free in the wild. So hotlinking on those terms makes sense, it preserves the image, uses Flickr’s bandwidth, presents the image as designed, and, most importantly, provides direct attribution and a link to the photographer.

    However, if someone hotlinks a shot on my site, provides no attribution, and causes my host to charge me extra money because I went over their data limit? That’s not cool man. That’s not how sharing works.

    So hotlink all you want from Flickr, SmugMug or another photo sharing site. If the photographer doesn’t want you to hotlink you won’t be allowed, as it’s as simple as the copyright holder checking a simple box when they upload. But I am quite sure there are thousands, if not millions, of people perfectly willing to share their images within certain limits. We can even get into CC (Creative Commons) licensing, which can allow you to download, remix, and create your own images if the original creator allows it, but that’s another entire discussion.

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