partial recall

a blog of ideas, links, and musings.

When Stealing Bandwidth is Good

Jeff Gates of Life Outtacontext opened my ignorant eyes to an internet faux pas with his entertaining July 23rd entry entitled, “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even.” Jeff first provides the common definition for stealing bandwidth:

Stealing Bandwidth: “when someone links directly to internet files from another Web site without the owner’s permission. ISPs (Internet Service Providers) often limit the amount of monthly “traffic” to or from your Web site. So, often victims of bandwidth stealing are charged whenever other people use their files in this manner.”

As a relative newbie to the blogosphere, I thought it would be wise to save web server space by pulling in images from other sites rather than copying them onto my web server and linking to them from my site. I hadn’t even considered copyright issues.

However, are there times when stealing bandwidth is good? I would argue that if you pull files from another site, common courtesy suggests that you should also provide a hyperlink to the source story or topic you reference. At the end of the day, don’t web sites want to attract readership? If I use an image from another location and I also cite where I grabbed it from (without altering it), wouldn’t this be a positive thing? Wouldn’t it be similar to quoting an author and including the appropriate references to the quoted passage? It seems to me more of the social “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

I wonder what executives at photo sites like Flickr think about this issue. Flickr allows people to share photos, and quite often users provide a creative commons license for their images. How does Flickr feel when a gazillion people link to images on their servers? They even encourage users to link to their personal images for their individual blogs!

I am in a position now where I do not have a large readership. I pay for modest web hosting services, so bandwidth is not yet an issue for me. If I started attracting a gazillion readers who stole my bandwidth by linking to images on my site, I’m sure I might have a different opinion about this issue. But then again, if I had a gazillion readers, wouldn’t bandwidth already be an issue that would be my responsibility to resolve?

I sincerely want to hear your thoughts on this issue.

Update: August 5, 2005

I went to the Drudge Report this morning and found that the images Drudge displays are a result of him linking to these files from other sites. Now wouldn’t that be interesting if the image owners did a move similar to the one Jeff Gates pulled?

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