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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Fun with bigots and thieves

I can abide a racist... and can even allow an anti-Semite his/her say.  But I have zero tolerance for a thief!

I know... I know... what the heck is David ranting about now?

For the uninitiated, there are two ways that a site-owner can place images on his/her website.

1.  The image is loaded onto the site-owner's host server and a line of code is placed on the page telling the web browser to call up that picture as it loads the page.

2.  The site-owner can place a line of code on his/her page telling the web browser to go find the image on someone else's server whenever that particular page is loaded.

The problem with option #2 is that it steals something called bandwidth*.  Every time a file is accessed from a remote server it uses up bandwidth.  As a blogger/journaler, I pay for a certain amount of storage space on my host's server... as well as a very finite amount of bandwidth (which I have been exceeding for the past 6 months or so).  If someone decides to steal my bandwidth by having my images load when their pages load... well, that's bandwidth theft.  It is unethical and just plain wrong!

Add to the mix a bandwidth thief who is also an outspoken anti-Israel/anti-Semitic racist... and, well... you can imagine I was a little hot under the collar.

As luck would have it, a few months back I read with amusement about my blogfather, Chuck's way of dealing with people who pilfer bandwidth.  He mentioned that this form of theft makes the thieves particularly vulnerable to a cute little bit of revenge.  You see, if the owner of the image were to replace the picture the thief is calling up with another, more, um, interesting image bearing the same file name as the original... this new picture will load whenever their page is viewed.

Just imagine the possibilities!

A couple of days ago I noticed that a picture I had posted on one of last month's entries was being accessed by another site. This kind of thing happens sometimes, but is usually due to ignorance rather than criminal intent.  But I was a bit shocked to find that the blog entry calling up this image was an anti-Israel/anti-Semitic rant by a jackbooted Brown Shirt student at UC Santa Barbara. 

I don't give people like that the benefit of the doubt.

The image I loaded to my server to replace the one he had glommed onto was essentially a warning label.  This is what showed up on his blog for about an hour yesterday (only much, much bigger):

N3_1_5

What, you were expecting pr0n?  :-)

I'm sure my artistic wife could have designed me up something much more eye-grabbing, but she is not the vengeful sort... so I left her out of it. 

If you were one of the lucky people who followed the link that was posted here for about an hour yesterday, you probably saw what a bone-head this guy is... and hopefully had yourselves a little chuckle.  However, once this blogger saw the traffic spike and figured out what was going on he quickly pulled the image tag.   

I'm sorry I gave him any traffic at all since by all appearances his readership seems to consist mostly of the dorm rooms on either side of his own.

Yes, I probably stooped to the level of this bigoted bandwidth thief by playing this prank.  But theft is theft... and bigotry is bigotry.... and I decided to teach this eager young activist a lesson.   If you want to rant and rave about how immoral and criminal Israel's behavior is, you had better be Mr. Rogers-worthy squeaky-clean yourself!

Anyhoo, I know none of my readers would intentionally do anything dishonest.  But please be careful about using images... and above all, don't use OPB (Other People's Bandwidth).  It's not nice.

*Bandwidth: How much information (text, images, video, sound) can be sent through a connection. Usually measured in bits-per-second. A full page of text is about 16,000 bits. A fast modem can move approximately 15,000 bits in one second. Full-motion full-screen video requires about 10,000,000 bits-per-second, depending on compression. 

Copyright© 1998-2005 Lazworld.com, Inc. All rights reserved.

221_16_5_11

Posted by David Bogner on June 8, 2005 | Permalink

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I'm not entirely clear on the ethical issues involved.

On the one hand, if there's a picture I want to link to on my site, isn't it more theft-like to copy the image file and put it by me?

On the other hand, if I was to link to your page, without actually showing the image, technically much more bandwidth would be used (the whole page would be loaded instead of just the image.) I know you can say maybe someone will end up reading your blog that way, but maybe they won't, and will only go to see the picture. Kind of like with Google Image search.

I can see how you'd be concerned about intellectual property theft in terms of your photos, but the bandwidth issue doesn't quite as severe. Unless you'd like us all to visit your blog less often - perhaps stop webflipping ( http://slumbering.lungfish.com/index.php?p=webflipping.1106111611 )...

Posted by: Dave | Jun 8, 2005 9:58:22 AM

congrats on that! stupid college students. and i rather like your simple message. gets the point across.

on a completely unrelated note- thank you so much for your offer of hospitality, i would surely like to take advantage of your kindness. less than 2 months now til im in israel

Posted by: Wildroze | Jun 8, 2005 10:05:53 AM

Dave... One of the many reason I maintain this journal is the hope that people will come and look at it. I pay for that each month. The images I use are either my own, public-domain images or images that I have posted on my server with the owner's permission. I really don't care so much about protecting the 'rights' to my images since I'm not an award-winning photographer or artist. But if someone is linking to images on my site, this cost's me money without the benefit of the readers/viewers for which my monthly payment is supposed to be spent. That's what I'm having a problem with. Heap on top of that the fact that I end up footing the bandwidth bill so an anti-Semite doesn't have to... and I get childish.

Wildroze... You are always welcome. As many other bloggers can tell you, we have a nice guest room with a beautiful view (and a private bathroom!). Enjoy your stay in Greece and send an e-mail when you arrive in Israel.

Posted by: David | Jun 8, 2005 10:12:00 AM

I think I understand the thievery part. Let me see if this is a problem for you...If I post my picture on a picture site i.e. snapfish and I connect my blog to their server to access the pic, would you consider that thievery too? Just curious.

Posted by: Jewish Blogmiester | Jun 8, 2005 10:42:37 AM

Here I am explaining the seven Noahide laws...Rule No.5 No theft, and my pro-Israel blog is full of OPB's!! Yikes!! I'm so embarrassed!! Caught pants down! I'd be soon facing condemnation, David saves the day :)

Posted by: kakarizz | Jun 8, 2005 10:55:49 AM

David, by any chance do you have the ability to place a (DOT)htaccess file on your server? If so, that does help with hotlinking and bandwidth theft, which btw is not only unethical, but illegal. You can even set up your (DOT)htaccess file to link to a fun replacement image if you so desire. :) If you need more info, check out the links on the Resources page on my site.

You can also contact the person's webhost (do a WhoIs search) and tell them about the problem. Bandwidth theft is usually a contract violation on any reliable web hosting service.

JBlogmeister-Direct linking from a photo album site is possible from a rare few places these days, Blogger is one (for Blogspot only) or Flickr, for example. What David is talking about is folks who figure out where you're linking in your picture from on your own server and then use the same link on their site, thereby stealing your bandwidth every time the image is shown on their site. Clearer?

Posted by: jennifer | Jun 8, 2005 11:27:17 AM

Everytime I post a picture, I am always afraid that it might end up at hotornot.com. That would really stink.

Posted by: John | Jun 8, 2005 11:33:03 AM

You rock! That was awesome!

Posted by: Naomi | Jun 8, 2005 12:31:09 PM

Jewish Blogmeister... As Jennifer said, there are a few sites whose entire reason for existing is to host image files for people who don't want to eat up their own storage and bandwidth limitations. They are willing to do this because they can put advertising in front of you each time you visit to update your photo albums. These ad views (or 'impressions' as they are called in the advertising game) are how they make money from their sponsors. Other than such places, linking to images rather than hosting them yourself is theft, plain and simple.

kakarizz... that is one of the reasons I posted this follow-up to yesterday's prank. I know that many people (myself included) unintentionally do dumb, or even illegal things. Unlike real life where 'I didn't know the law' doesn't get you much slack with the traffic cop... in the online world many people get the opportunity to change their behavior after just a friendly warning from a friend. Consider this your warning. :-)

Jennifer... I haven't looked into too many of typepad's bells and whistles. I will look into that. As to contacting the blogger's host... this would only be helpful if the person was using a pay service. Free services like blogger, et al, are the wild west of the online world... just about anything goes. As always... thanks for the advice, though.

John... At least there is some question in your mind where it would end up! :-)

Naomi... You are very sweet. Thanks for the ego boost. :-)

Posted by: David | Jun 8, 2005 1:25:06 PM

It's not stealing.

When you put a file in a directory accessible by http you are making it accessible to whoever wants it.

If someone wants to display it on their web site without paying for the bandwidth, well, then they are depending on someone else to make it available and run the risk of having a broken link or in this case worse, or better...

If I were you I would have pondered for hours the question of what replacement picture to put in there. I would have come up with something better!

Posted by: Andy | Jun 8, 2005 2:32:12 PM

Andy... I was soooo tempted to post some pr0n or some really shocking image from those peace-loving freedom fighters over in Iraq... but in the end I was too worried about someone browsing through my archives and seeing such a picture.

Oh well, there's always next time. :-)

Posted by: David | Jun 8, 2005 2:55:10 PM

Andy-Sorry to disagree with you, but bandwidth theft, if not stealing, is still against most webhosting TOS, blogspot included. (David, the address to write to at any webhosting service to report abuse is [email protected]/her_webhostingserviceDOTcom) If your hosting provider receives a complaint that you are hotlinking images from another website, they can shut down your website.

We've had tons of discussions on this exact topic on the various graphics and web design forums that I participate in and the bottom line is that a determined (and IMNSHO unethical) user will find a way to make off with your images. So, if you really don't want people to have access to your images, then don't post them to begin with.

But then the Internet wouldn't be nearly so much fun then, would it?

Posted by: jennifer | Jun 8, 2005 4:04:53 PM

I am not person who takes revenge but I liked what you did ;)

Posted by: Essie | Jun 8, 2005 4:07:49 PM

I don't really know how this stuff works. How do you put the images on that other site so as to avoid bandwith stealing?

Posted by: tmeishar | Jun 8, 2005 4:13:38 PM

These ad views (or 'impressions' as they are called in the advertising game) are how they make money from their sponsors.

Assuming that they are not using a CPC (cost per click) or CPA (cost per acquisition) model. My guess is that those sites are more likely using a CPC than impression pricing structure which is more along the lines of what Google/Overture are doing.

Not that it matters, but this is along the lines of what I spend my days doing. I hate CPC and CPA deals because they ignore the branding aspect entirely.

Posted by: Jack | Jun 8, 2005 4:16:09 PM

Oh oh. I always link to pictures on other sites, but usually not blogs and usually public domain pictures. I don't even have a way to get pictures on my server, but I guess I'll have to figure out the service that blogger provides and get on in.

In my most recent post I put a picture of an ewok, but strictly for laughs. But you're right, it's not like I asked Mr. Lucas first.

Drat! I hate finding out that I'm doing the wrong thing. Gotta fix that.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Jun 8, 2005 4:26:04 PM

Is it always stealing? I have a picture now on my site from Judaica.com of the tallit bag I bought for my husband. But I have it credited to the artist, and I figured it's just a way to show off that artist's work, so who would object? But does this mean I'm taking unauthorized bandwidth from Judaica.com? My feeling was as long as credit is given, it's OK.

Posted by: Mirty | Jun 8, 2005 5:02:55 PM

My feeling was as long as credit is given, it's OK.

Here is the hiccup with that. You may be giving credit, but someone else is potentially paying for extra bandwidth and they may not want to.

It is like throwing a dinner party for four people and then having eight show up. Suddenly your budget for the meal is thrown completely because you are forced to spend money you hadn't intended on spending.

That being said this is not an unusual or uncommon issue, especially if you post about little German girls and their hit crocodile tune.

Posted by: Jack | Jun 8, 2005 5:06:45 PM

Judaism.com rather.

Posted by: Mirty | Jun 8, 2005 5:07:08 PM

but it's a purdy picture!

huh? german girls and crocodiles. Jack, you strange man you.

Posted by: Mirty | Jun 8, 2005 5:09:41 PM

I know it's tempting to replace the picture with something snarky (believe me, I know - this has been done to me countless times, and I did the same thing) but then you're still paying for their bandwidth, you're just paying for a different picture.

Setting up a .htaccess file doesn't have anything to do with typepad. It's a file you create within your directory structure, that will block anyone from being able to link to your files from another domain.

I know it's a hassle to set it up, but eventually someone will hotlink one of your pictures on a popular bulletin board, and you'll waste a gig of bandwidth on them in a day. (Mark My Words!!! *snort* I sound like the internet oracle.)

And yes, Andy, as long as David is paying real, honest-to-goodness money for his bandwidth, it is stealing.

Posted by: Tanya | Jun 8, 2005 5:37:32 PM

David,
You are really becoming computer savvy. I haven’t gotten around to posting pictures on my blog but if I ever cost you bandwidth be sure to let me know. I despise a thief as much as the next guy.

Posted by: jason | Jun 8, 2005 6:38:57 PM

Mirty,

Look at this link:

http://bogieworks.blogs.com/treppenwitz/2005/01/schnappi_das_kl.html

Posted by: Jack | Jun 8, 2005 7:30:48 PM

Dave, how did you find out that someone was stealing your bandwidth?? I want to know because I think it happened to me recently and it crashed all my pictures making my entire blog look like crap because it was full of holes (such as the giant banner at the top!)

Posted by: celestial blue | Jun 8, 2005 8:21:03 PM

Jennifer... I hate to have to go to all the trouble of mucking around with more code on my site... but I agree with you and Tanya that there is probably no other way. [sigh]

Essie... It was only an hour or so of revenge, but I had fun. BTW, now that I put my old image back up (it was the one of the orange bracelet), the putz has re posted his code to call it up. I'm tempted to take down the whole post... but there were some wonderful comments on that one.

tmeishar... All I had to do was remove my original picture and replace it with something else that had the same name. The code on the thief's blog looks for a picture with that name on my blog... it has no idea that the actual image has changed.

Jack... Thanks for clearing that up. I figured you'd clarify things if I strayed too far from the center-line.

Doctor Bean... You might be confusing two things. One is stealing the image itself (by not getting permission to use it or not giving proper attribution), and the other is stealing bandwidth by having the image load from the other person's server while someone is viewing your page. Both are no-nos, but I was mostly talking about the latter in today's post.

Mirty... If you saved the picture to your server it is not bandwidth theft, but it might be making unauthorized use of the image. Most people who are trying to sell things on the net don't mind if you show their products on your site so long as you link to them and send potential customers their way. However, it is always nice to send an e-mail to the owner of the site/image to tell them what you want to do.

Tanya... I didn't intend to leave the image there for long... just until the guy figured it out. But now I guess he gets the last laugh because he is glomming onto the original picture again. I've taken Jennifer's advice and contacted his host (blogger).

Jason... Long time! I don't know why the stealing insults my sense of justice so much more than other equally problematic behavior... but it does. I'm gratified to find out that by discussing this here today, a few good people have discovered they were inadvertently acting improperly. That's worth all the aggravation... and then some!

Jack... Thanks! That's all I need... more search engine bait for people looking for schna... um, ...oh no you don't! Almost got me there!!!

Celestial... I discovered this bit of theft when I noticed that a particular file (in this case, a picture)was being called up by a remote server. When I went to the site that was calling up the file, I found this idiot ranting about Israel oppressing the Palestinians. And there among all that crap was one of my pictures. I right click and click on the properties... and I had my confirmation.

Posted by: David | Jun 8, 2005 9:56:41 PM

ok but I wanna know HOW you noticed that a particular file was being called up by a remote server!!

Posted by: celestial blue | Jun 9, 2005 12:06:22 AM

Jack... Thanks for clearing that up. I figured you'd clarify things if I strayed too far from the center-line.

Hey ask me what time it is and I'll teach you how to build a clock. ;)

Posted by: Jack | Jun 9, 2005 12:22:11 AM

Love it, David. Clean and classy, just like you.

Posted by: Carol | Jun 9, 2005 12:25:57 AM

It's stealing. If you link directly to a picture on someone else's server and put that link on your website, you are using that person's bandwidth without permission. Any way you look at it, it's stealing.

Using a copyrighted picture is also stealing. We all do it--I do it, too--but I don't pretend it's "fair use". There is no fair use of a photograph. There is only permitted and unpermitted use. No, wait. I suppose if you used, like, one tiny portion of the photo, that would be considered fair use.

Dave, change the name of the photo in your post. Keep doing it every time asshat finds it. See who gets tired of it first. When I find someone stealing my bandwidth, that's what I do. They generally never do it again, but then, I don't have anti-Semitic morons stealing my bandwidth, generally. Just people who don't understand that they're costing me money.

Posted by: Meryl Yourish | Jun 9, 2005 1:56:08 AM

Don't start removing pictures, please. They're wonderful. :o)

Check the link in my previous comment. It's easy to make your site hotlink-proof. (There's even a code generator!)

Posted by: Tanya | Jun 9, 2005 3:48:33 AM

Celestial... I don't know how blogger works, but I was looking on my referrer log which lists the sites linking to mine, as well as the actual pages/files to which they are linking. If blogger doesn't have such a thing there are bunches of free traffic tracking add-ons you can use.

Jack... So by that line of reasoning if I were to ask you for a lift you'd build me a car? :-)

Carol... Thank you. In this context I'll take that as a compliment. ;-)

Meryl... Yes, I would have to agree that we all engage in a certain amount of laziness (if not outright dishonesty) when it comes to using images with permission. I always make an effort to determine the owner of any image I use on my site and request permission to use it. Sometimes I get no response so I use the image but provide a clear copyright message below it along with a link to the site from which it was taken. This is undoubtedly questionable behavior... but I at least make an effort. The other thing that sometimes keeps me from acting completely according to the highest standards is that some images and/or material gets passed around the Internet so widely that it is very hard to figure out who the original owner might be. From an ethical standpoint this is a weak excuse... sort of like saying that if you live in a part of town where most of the things for sale are probably stolen, then it is OK to buy them from the most convenient source. However, I will usually make a concerted effort to try to track down the source of even widely distributed images and content. Basically, if you see an image on my site that has no link or copyright information below it, it is either mine, or an image so widely disseminated as to be essentially public domain.

Tanya... I will probably try to sort out how to do what you suggest. as Mlle a. can attest, I am reluctant to mooch free technical advice from people in support of my online habit... but if I get myself in too deep you may get a panicked e-mail requesting a word of advice. :-)

Posted by: David | Jun 9, 2005 8:53:13 AM

celestial, I found that someone was hotlinking by looking at my recent referrers log. When I saw that one of my images was being linked from a site other than my own, I went to the other site and saw that the site owner had dropped the link to my image into their page. Because I have an htaccess file in place, they got the Red X image placeholder on their site. The "hit" still shows up in my referers, which is how I found it, but they're not pulling the image and its bandwidth from my site.

If your own site comes up with Red X's it means that wherever you are pulling your images in from is down (and obviously not the same domain as your site).

David, Meryl's advice is good too. Keep changing the name of the original image if this person continues hotlinking the image. That also leaves you the option to put your amusing replacement image back up, at least until he catches on again. (Cat & Mouse)

Posted by: jennifer | Jun 9, 2005 9:32:24 AM

Jack... So by that line of reasoning if I were to ask you for a lift you'd build me a car? :-)

Either that or I might teach you how to build an elevator. Or maybe just loan you a ladder. Although I have a sneaking suspicion that you have the same challenges with brevity that I do. ;)

Posted by: Jack | Jun 9, 2005 9:34:39 AM

You're always welcome to ask me technical questions. You let me ask you Judaism questions, right? Right?! ;o)

Posted by: Tanya | Jun 9, 2005 4:54:55 PM

Jennifer... I don't know if I feel like dancing around with this idiot. Let's see if his host does anything about the complaint I filed.

Jack... are yousaying I'm long-winded?

Tanya... Deal.

Posted by: David | Jun 9, 2005 7:10:26 PM

David, in this context (and in any other) that is most certainly a compliment. :-D

Posted by: Carol | Jun 11, 2005 4:39:46 PM

Right On!

Click my URL.

Peace!

Posted by: WesleyWes | Sep 12, 2005 8:51:48 PM

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