Image Leeches

For some reason several of my sites were recently infested with image leeches. I’m not sure if it’s coincidence or not, but every one of these blood suckers were users of the MySp*ce.com (link purposely not provided) service.

My first reaction was to rename the images so that their links would break. Granted this is only a temporary solution and there is nothing stopping them from linking to the renamed images.

One of the leeches was linking to the header banner from the Bullfrog page as part of a reasonably harmless comment on one of their “friends” comment sections. Not a huge deal, but they are still stealing bandwidth (albeit not very much). I guess what I could do is take advantage of this and modify the image to be an add banner. But without a link pointing back, this probably wouldn’t be worth the bother.

Another leech is displaying one of my photographs from my photo gallery site. Again, not a ton of bandwidth, but since their profile is private I have no idea how they are using the photo. I added a much more obvious copyright notice to the photo, but left this one’s URL intact for now.

I’m not really sure how to handle this, it’s my first leeching. I’d be interested in hearing how others are dealing with this sort of thing. I realize that the web is built on linking and publicly published content, but if there’s a simple way of minimizing the damage of the casual content thief, I could use some pointers.

2 thoughts on “Image Leeches

  1. A really common solution for this is to use .htaccess (I’m sure there’s an IIS equivalent) to only allow requests that are referred by your domain’s url access to the image.

    When you inline an image, that reference acts as a referral to the image file, so outerlevel.com is referring me to http://outerlevel.com/blog/images/bullfrog128.png.

    In the same vein, MySpace.com is referring browsers to those two image files. You can use this knowledge perhaps to block MySpace itself, or (and this is the more common version), to block everything that isn’t outerlevel.com or one of your other domains.

    There’s a reasonably decent tutorial at: http://altlab.com/htaccess_tutorial.html

    This is a very common solution. You can block the image completely, or replace it with a simple, very small image that says “This person inlined an image from outerlevel.com. How rude!”. Many sites get much much ruder with the replacement images. One I saw recently that was fairly clever was an image that was a few thousand pixels wide, which fairly severly broke most layouts.

    googling “.htaccess image” will turn up lots of other examples and tutorials on how it’s done.

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