TORn Image Posting Guide

Hotlinking aka Remote Linking
what does it mean & why should you care



What does 'hotlinking' mean?

From Wikipedia: Inline linking (also known as hotlinking, leeching, piggy-backing, direct linking, offsite image grabs and bandwidth theft) is the use of a linked object, often an image, from one site into a web page belonging to a second site. The second site is said to have an inline link to the site where the object is located.

Is all hotlinking bad?

No. If I own a website and I chose to direct link to an image at that site, I may. If I have a Photobucket account and I wish to direct link to an image in my album, I may. But no one else has permission to direct link to an image on my website or an image in my Photobucket account. Most often, the term 'hotlinking' is used to indicate just such an unapproved action. Therefore, when someone says, "Don't hotlink", they don't care if you are hotlinking an image on your own site. They are essentially saying, "Don't hotlink to an image that is on a site that doesn't belongs to you."

However, remote linking may be prohibited even on sites that belong to you. Some free sites provided for you use by certain internet provider services (or other enterprises) do not allow remote linking.

Why is unauthorized hotlinking wrong?

There are many reasons but the simplest is this: it is theft. It is theft on two levels.

Monetary theft:

It costs someone money just to have a file sitting on the internet. It doesn't matter if it's a pdf, mp3, or .html file. If I want to park it on the net, I need to find a place to park it. Most of the time, it costs money to park it. I pay more for a bigger parking space.

But another thing I pay for is 'bandwidth'. Every time someone looks at an image, downloads an mp3 file, or opens an html web page, it uses bandwidth. Sometimes, when a predetermined amount of purchased bandwidth is exceeded, the site essentially shuts down for a time. Sometimes, when that predetermined amount is exceeded, a 'overdraft protection' kicks in and more is added at a premium price.

If an image on my site is being displayed in someone's footer at a forum somewhere, my site is charged for bandwidth usage everytime that footer is displayed. Everytime you view a post with a hotlinked picture in it, you just depleted some of that remote site's allotted bandwidth.

Intellectual theft:

If the image you are hotlinking to was an original creation, then hotlinking is stealing their 'creation'. It might be hard to imagine this as theft if your living is not made by the sale of your creative talents. But if the item you create is a product of an investment on your part of education, practice, time, and experience, then you should have the final say in how that product is used, where it's used, and to what benefit that use is to you.

Some of the benefit a creator might achieve is to have people visiting their site... increased traffic, so to speak. Even if you credit the originator of the item/image, the display of their
work does not result in this increased traffic on their site. You want people 'in the store' and looking around.

But... but... everyone does it:

Well, everyone doesn't do it and TORn asks that you not do it. I leave the rest up to you. There are many things you can 'get away with' in life... matters in which you have to police yourself. This is just one of them.

What happens when I hotlink?

Well, as stated above, someone gets hurt to some extent. But this is really a 'what happens to me when I hotlink'  sort of question.

Sometimes, nothing 'happens' when you hotlink. The image displays just fine and the hosting site either doesn't know its bandwidth is being slowly being drained or it just doesn't wish to fight the practice. That's not to say that no attempt to stop the practice means tacit approval has been given,
of course.

Sometimes, you get a broken link icon.

Sometimes, instead of displaying the image you tried to link to, the hosting site will display an image like this.

The image to the left is from the Lord of the Ring Image Library which is used heavily as a source of images on TORn's movie board. You can use an image from this site but you must follow the guidelines stated in the hotlink alert image.

Or this.

Some images which show up when hotlinking has occurred are not so gentle in their approach. They can be accusatory, obscene and/or profane.

So what do I do instead of hotlinking?

If you believe it is not egregious to do so (otherwise... if you're not stealing someone's creation), you can find a new host for the image:

  • You can download the image onto your harddrive and upload to TORn from your harddrive. This means TORn will host the image (and pay the price) rather than the original site. This option only works for

    It will not work for footers.

  • You can host the image at an online photo hosting site. This should work for all the categories of image displays at TORn we have available to us.

Keep in mind this handles the issue of bandwidth/storage 'theft'. It does not handle any issue of 'intellectual' theft. If you have concerns or questions about the issue of intellectual rights, a post in Feedback would be an appropriate place to discuss them.

Or, you can decide to link someone to the site that is hosting the image rather than just grabbing the picture. This means that the remote site is still using bandwidth for a view, but they're getting the exposure the new visitor brings them. Think of it like this, if I grab a story from TORn's front page and copy it into a forum post elsewhere, even if I credit TORn, the person reading it at this remote site need never visit TORn. If I link to the story, now anyone reading is checking out TORn. TORn's stats for page views goes up (a plus for advertisers) and perhaps that visitor will decide to look around further or even stick around. And one need not worry about intellectual theft.