Hotlinking — or the act of using a linked media object directly from its source on your own site, rather than hosting it yourself — is one of the oldest Internet sins. It eats up the bandwidth of the site you took it from, without giving them any of the benefits of actual Web site traffic. It’s impolite at best.
So it was kind of surprising to see a recent article on the Huffington Post’s UK site, not only republishing the comic from Matthew Inman at The Oatmeal without his permission — but hotlinking the entire thing from Inman’s site.
“When I looked into it, I noticed that the images were hotlinked, which is when I decided to do a bit of trolling,” Inman told the Intersect in an e-mail. Because the images were hosted by Inman and not the Huffington Post, it followed that he could simply switch out the files for something else.
This is the glorious result of that decision:
— Matthew Inman (@Oatmeal) October 28, 2015
“Not only did they repurpose my comic without permission, they were essentially forcing me to pay their hosting bills as well. I figured I’d just show everyone the bill,” Inman added. Until the Huffington Post removed all images from the post, visitors expecting to see Inman’s comic about cats and babies instead saw panel after panel of Inman’s note, and a copy of his hosting bill.
That is, except for the last image, which Inman replaced with a new piece of original art: drawings of two portions of the anatomy that are generally covered up by clothing (you can see them here, but they’re not appropriate for a family newspaper blog).
Inman said that this sort of thing “happens all the time” to his work. As it turns out, the Huffington Post story credited aggregation site Bored Panda with tipping them off to the comic — and Inman didn’t give Bored Panda permission to republish his comic, either.
“Cartooning is odd because if I were to write a lengthy, wordy blog post, most media outlets would ask permission before republishing it,” Inman said, “but if it’s something that’s been drawn, they treat it like a meme image that took a few seconds to create, and it just gets repurposed everywhere.”
Inman hasn’t yet heard from the Huffington Post, or the reporter behind the article, about the whole thing, although the piece now carries an editor’s note saying that the linked images from Inman’s comic have “been removed at the request of the artist.”
“My general take on this is as follows:” Inman concluded, “if you want to repurpose someone’s work, just ask permission first. And never hotlink. That’s how you get drawings of butts and pee-pees on your website.”
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