Hotlinking is an evil internet practice that a lot of people are doing and think is commonplace because they simply don’t know better.
For those not in the know, let’s give two examples.
First, someone visits my site and finds a piece of art someone drew that they like. They copy the file onto their computer, upload it to their server, and put it on their site. This isn’t actually hotlinking, but is instead called art theft, even moreso if they call it their own work.
Second, someone visits my site and finds a piece of art someone drew that they like. They go to their site and link directly to the image, making it look like the image is “on their site”, but the people actually download it from me. This is called hotlinking. They may take something as simple as a small arrow graphic, but it’s still stealing my bandwidth.
Hotlinking is evil, because they get the picture and I pay for the bandwidth. It skews my logs and stats as I get people “visiting” just to steal a picture, but the visitor is actually at the other person’s site.
I have a handful of people out there, mostly myspace people, that are hotlinking some of my pictures.
What if you’re a hotlinker? First, stop linking directly to the other person’s site. Second, ask if you can copy the image over to your server and use it on your site — it’s not yours, after all, and the worst they can do is say no. If it’s public domain, you don’t even need to bother asking. Don’t know if it’s public domain? Ask.
Also, hotlinkers beware. Some time ago I added the following to the bottom of my site: “Hot linking is expressly prohibited and if done you agree to pay an unreasonable price for bandwidth consumed.”
I’m going to be emailing the people taking my bandwidth with some bills. Nothing hits home how serious something is as hitting someone in the wallet.