Bandwidth Poaching in the Blogosphere

August 8, 2005


Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve started to add graphics to some of my posts. And, truth be told, I didn’t compose and/or “snap” most of the photos that I am embedding in my blog. During the Tour de France, I used some photos from CyclingNews (and tried to attribute and/or link back to the source). But I have always ensured that these pictures were stored on my blog server. This means that I reach my storage limit sooner. But it respects the bandwidth of the originator of the image.

Well, apparently there are folks that have chosen a different path. This morning, I was reading through Ed Morrissey’s blog (Captain’s Quarters) and read his recent post regarding the “suspect” posting practices over at Daily Kos. Apparently, one of the writers at Kos chose to embed a photo from a different source. But rather than copy the image to the Kos servers, the poster referenced the image on the originator’s server. And since Kos is pretty heavily read, the innocent orignator got hammered by unexpected bandwidth requirements. To demonstrate his displeasure, the orignator decided to modify the image and make some disparaging comments about Daily Kos and its bandwidth poaching.

While the story is slightly humorous, the bottom line is not. The blogosphere is composed of people and blogs of every size. And the largest of these blogs rely upon the smallest of the blogs – and vice-versa. It is a very interconnected world. Indeed, the blogosphere can be thought of as a new form of “the commons.” And we must respect “the commons” and everyone who uses them – regardless of readership size or influence. Barry Commoner (noted environmentalist) once said, “The first law of ecology is that everything is related to everything else.” And this is true of the blogosphere as much as it is for the ecosphere. And if we don’t respect one another, then we can really screw things up. So let’s ensure that we respect one another in all that we use and in all that we say.

But apart from the platitudes, there are some concrete takeways worth remembering. First, if you post images and can’t cover unexpected bandwidth costs, consider using an image hosting service – like Flikr. Second, always ensure that you respect copyright law when you use someone else’s images. Have I been a stickler for this? Probably not. Yes, I try and include the relevant attributions and copyright notices (as well as providing links, where appropriate). But have I actually obtained permission first? Not always.

But these are some of the reasons for using the Creative Commons approach for image inclusion and use. By using images covered under the terms of a CC license, you know that you have explicit permissions granted by the copyright holder. And you know this based solely upon the license terms the copyright holder has chosen.




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