Hotlinking and Bandwidth

A few people have asked me to expand on my post about hotlinking.

Basically, there are two ways for people to use photos they find on the web.  Either to right-click on them and save them on their computer, and then upload them to their webspace or webhost. 

Or they can find the URL to the image from the html, the path where it is saved on your webhost, and put that in when they write their own post.  That is hotlinking.  Both ways, they are using someone else’s photos and so it is breaking copyright if they don’t acknowledge it.

If you pay for webspace, you have a limited amount of bandwidth per month.  Each time someone goes to your website or blog and views it, it downloads on to their computer and the amount used is called bandwidth (so if there are a lot of photos it means that the amount is quite high because photos take up a lot of space).  I think it is also called transfer – the amount transferred between your webhost and the other computer.

Now, if someone hotlinks to a photo, it is using your bandwidth because every time someone clicks on their website, the photo comes from your webhost, not theirs. If they have uploaded the photo to their own webhost (or to something like Flickr, then it is their bandwidth and the use of the photo is merely a copyright
issue.

I don’t think you need to worry about it if you are with Blogger or one of the other free blogging platforms, unless it gets really bad and Blogger gets stroppy – it is Blogger’s bandwidth you are using, rather than another webhost which you are paying for.

I found out that people were hotlinking by going to my webhost stats on CPanel (most webhosts provide some sort of statistics for your website), clicking on ‘Stats/Logs’ and ‘Web/FTP Stats’ and ‘Latest Visitors’.  There, they gave the ‘referrer’ URL which I clicked on and found my photos on someone else’s website…  Most instructive… 

If you do find hotlinking is a problem, I found a couple of sites which explain what you can do about it.  The clearest is Thomas Scott’s Smarter Image Hotlink Prevention on A List Apart (at least I haven’t tried his php file yet because I need to try and understand where to upload it first) but I found his explanation of the mod_rewrite code the clearest (scroll down to halfway down the page) and if you want to see if you’ve got it right you can test it here.

If I’ve got any of this wrong, please feel free to contradict me!  All this is pretty new to me…

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