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What to do About Hotlinked Images?

By Char

No hotlinkingI know that hotlinking images from another website without the owner’s permission is wrong, and chances are, if you are a regular reader, you know this, too.

In the past few days I have found a number of different sites hotlinking images off my sites. After taking a look at the sites that are “offenders”, I am relatively sure that the site owners are not hotlinking to be malicious, but I would probably guess they just don’t know better. They also don’t seem to be high traffic sites.

Should I approach these bloggers and gently let them know that what they are doing is not the best way to get images for their posts, then give them instructions on how to right click and save?

Have you come across this issue? How have you or would you handle it?

Categories : Doing Business



My wife has an art web site, and we always check the logs for “hotlinkers”.

Then we simply replace that image with a friendly Text-ad of her website (i.e. Go to for more pictures), so we get free instant ads!

We always try to use compassion before revenge.


Maybe create an article about hotlinking, change the name of your file being hotlinked and then place a re-direct for the original file name pointing to your hotlinking article.

Anyone know of a simple way to check for images being hotlinked?


You can use .htaccess and mod_rewrite to redirect all external requests for images to a graphic that says “This user is stealing bandwidth. Please visit for more” or something similar. It’s similar to what Jimson Lee does, but you don’t replace the original image.

I wish I could remember where I saw a tutorial on how to do just that.


A List Apart has a great tutorial on a method I’ve used in the past:

Just be sure to allow those domains where you want your images to appear (particularity web-based readers — Google Reader, Bloglines, etc.).


Thanks for all the good insight! I would rather take the opportunity to educate and be compassionate first, but might have to take a more drastic approach if it becomes more prevalent.


Thanks for that link, Tony. It’s a little bit over my head at first glance, but I’ll read it again.

Similar to Jamie, I’d love to know a simple way to check for images being hotlinked.


David – I have been able to find images of mine that were hotlinked by checking my incoming links – all of the hotlinking cases have at least linked back to me. I’m am sure there are more and sometimes they show up in my stats.


Thanks Char. Here’s another question: How can you tell if someone is using an image from your website when they don’t link back? This could cause problems, for instance, if the page your image is on gets a lot of traffic and eats into your own resources.

Not that that’s happened, but I’m curious.


David – the only way I know is to really look over your web stats and the resource usage.

Does anyone else have a quick way of figuring it out?


@David – You should be able to check your server logs to see how your images are being called (a lot by one IP for example). You can also do a Google search for the image name and see if it’s showing up under any other sites.


I’m still new at this. I’m writing a post and referring to a picture of Sigmund Freud holding a cigar. I found it at Encyclopedia Britannica and it clearly isn’t in the public domain, so I can’t right click it and save. I assume linking to the whole Britannica page is perfectly legitimate?


Hello Char,

I’m a new blogger and really have no clue what I’m doing. I would take a gentle email telling me what I’ve done wrong and what I should have done as help and be very grateful for it!



You can use htaccess file to stop people hotlinking, only allow you’re website to use the images in a certain directory.
I’ve only had one person hotlinking me but I let it go as it was only being used as a background image, and its on facebook so isn’t hogging much bandwidth.


I guess it is not a big deal if the traffic is small, but yes you could indeed point them to this info. It took me a while to figure this one out when I began blogging.


BTW, you have a wonderful blog, full of useful info. I expect to be back periodically.


I usually take the sympathetic road at first too. Most times people haven’t a clue of what they’ve done and will do what they can to resolve the issue quickly. If not, I take more extreme measures by commenting on their blog announcing the theft and threaten to report them to their affiliates as a scamming/scrapper site. That usually does the trick.


Char, IMO there’s basically three different approaches to this problem:
a) Just send them a friendly e-mail and tell them about your feelings. Most people respond to this.
b) Change the htaccess file so to stop people from hotlinking.
c) The most evil technique. Don’t stop them from hotlinking just change the picture to something that will make them feel ashamed, such a picture with the text “This person is a thief, stole it from my site)

There is a really awkward incident where Senator J.Mcain Myspace page (his crew hotlinked every image on their theme from this webdesigner without even giving him the credit!) so he got back on them by changing one of the pictures to read something like “I know support gay marriage”, you can sure bet they stopped hotlinking that image.


Just write to them and ask that they kindly remove them… how do you track, Char?

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