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Ways to Prohibit Image Theft by RSS Scrapers

by John Reiley (writer), , December 27, 2013

Image scraping can do more than simply steal your images; it can also steal your bandwidth. Employ some of these methods to protect your website.

If you’ve come across a website with scraped content, chances are it was more than just the text that was stolen. Many RSS scrapers also steal the images that were posted along with the article, especially if the images are graphs or other visual aids that are necessary to understand the text. Even if they’re photographs or images someone created using software, they may still be scraped and displayed on other websites. While fighting the legal battle to get these stolen images can be difficult, there are some things you can do to prohibit image theft by these RSS scrapers. This is the best method of protecting your images.

Hotlinking

Most websites scrape images by doing what is known as hotlinking. This means they don’t actually copy the images from your website to theirs. Instead, they link to your images. This means whenever someone loads the scraped page, that page calls your server and downloads the images. This affects your bandwidth. That’s a major issue because it means you may end up going over your allotted bandwidth even though you don’t have that many visitors to your actual website. The scraping site gets the visitors, uses your images, and steals your bandwidth at the same time. If you go over your bandwidth allocation, your website may be inaccessible until the next month or until you pay a fee for going over the limit.

Ways to Stop Hotlinking

There are a couple of different things you can do to stop image hotlinking. One way is to do some coding, yourself, so that your website can protect itself, while the other is to call in the experts to help you.

Creating a Hotlink-Blocking Code

You will find a number of examples online of code that will prevent hotlinking. This code, which makes no changes to what a visitor to your page sees, stops a site from making use of a hotlinked image. It still draws an image file from your computer, but that image file can be very small. It will replace any hotlinked images with this specific picture. Most people make that image a brightly colored square with text that says something like “Hotlinking to this image has been disabled.” It’s even possible to set up the code to block hotlinking from specific domains but to allow it on others.

Hire Professionals

Another option is to use a professional anti web scraping service or software. These services will help block your content from being scraped. This not only protects your images and bandwidth but it also protects your written content, as well. If you’ve been having repeated problems with scraped content of all types, investing in one of these services will help protect your content.

Take the Battle to Them

If you find a site that has repeatedly tried to scrape your content, you can report them to Google and other search engines. If you can show you own the content, Google may remove the scraping site from its search results. You can also contact the website’s host company and let them know that the site is illegally using your content.

How do you find web scrapers? The easiest way is to post some content and then, a day or so later, search for a sentence from the article (be sure to put quotes around it so that the search engine looks for that exact sentence). If you get any results, check them out. You may find that they’ve scraped your content and images.

Protect Your Images in Other Ways

You may also want to protect your images from being stolen via other methods. While hotlinking is fairly popular since they get to steal your bandwidth, too, some scrapers will actually save the image and upload it. Here are a few tips for defeating this type of image theft:

? Use coding to disable the right click “save as” function.

? Edit the images to add a watermark.

? Use Flash to display your images.

? Encode the image URL so it can’t easily be found in the webpage’s source code.

These are just a few different tricks you can use to protect images on your website. The most effective way of handing image scraping is to stop it before it even begins, so you will want to employ at least one of these methods, if not more. Using an anti scraping service and inserting code into your website to block hotlinking will protect your bandwidth while also making certain the websites doing the scraping get unusable content. Combining these methods and preventing people from saving your images is the most effective way of protecting your hard work.



About the Writer

John Reiley is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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