(Originally published November 1997)
The ease of saving images off of the web has caused a very real problem for artists and content providers alike. If you have placed your intellectual property on the web chances are that sooner or later someone is going to ‘borrow’ a little bit of it… without your permission.
Is it theft, or is it ignorance? Probably both. Without a doubt, it is theft, perpetrated through ignorance on a large part, through indifference to a certain degree, and through sheer maliciousness in rare instances. What am I talking about? Graphics…. your graphics…. popping up on other web sites, without your permission. If you’re lucky, the graphic has been downloaded and stored on the other sites server. If you’re not so lucky the other site is merely linking to your server, using your bandwidth.
Let’s look at this situation from two angles. First, the graphic itself. You may not be getting paid for your graphic work, but you’ve put long hard hours into creating your masterpiece. You’re understandably proud of it and want to show it off. You’ve uploaded it to your web site. Someone obviously appreciates your work or they wouldn’t have taken it. But, and this is the big but…. they’ve also stolen your creativity, your intellectual property and are calling it their own. This is enough to make most people angry, at the very least.
Now lets look at the situation from the other angle. Not only has someone stolen your art work, but they are linking to it on your server; they are stealing your bandwidth.
So, what is this thing called bandwidth, and what does it mean to you. Simply put, when someone views your web site, data is transferred from your server to their browser and stored on their hard drive in a cache directory. The transfer of this data is measured in bytes and all of the bytes added together make up your bandwidth usage. Some Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) will charge you if your account uses over a certain limit of bytes or bandwidth per month. When someone links directly to one or more of your graphics they are using your bandwidth. If you are no where near your set limit you will probably never notice this extra usage. On the other hand, some web sites have been forced to shut down for a lack of funds to support their bandwidth. Still others have placed a voluntary block on their accounts when the bandwidth limit has been reached. I’m not saying that all excessive bandwidth is caused by graphic pirates, that’s definitely not the case, but it has been known to happen. It’s unfortunate, but some of the best free graphic sites on the web have had to close their doors for this reason.