Let's say you add a blog post to your website that includes a few pictures. Someone else might read that blog post and decide to display the photos on their website. If the person copies the image link and uses it on their website, they're hotlinking.
However, it isn't considered hotlinking when someone downloads an image from your website and hosts it on their own site.
What are the drawbacks of hotlinking?
On the surface, hotlinking might not seem like a big deal. Whether you're using stock photos or infographics you created in-house, it's not just about someone else using your images.
As a website owner, there are several reasons you should work to prevent hotlinking. This includes:
It's unethical and unprofessional
Even though hotlinking images or content isn't illegal, it's an unethical and unprofessional practice.
Ultimately, hotlinking involves stealing content from another website. Hotlinking can also put more strain on your site, which may mean you have to upgrade to meet demands.
Downloading media and hosting it on your own website is a simple alternative to hotlinking, so protect your assets and avoid hotlinking the digital creations of others.
Can lead to legal repercussions
When someone hotlinks your website's images, you can send them a copyright infringement notice and take legal action if you're the original owner.
The problem is that it costs a lot of money to sue for copyright infringement, and that's money that a lot of small business website owners don't have.
Legal battles can last for several weeks or months, and you don't want to spend your hard-earned money trying to prevent someone from using media from your website.
You have little to no control over hotlinked assets
You have complete control over your website and the media you upload. If someone decides to hotlink media from your website, you have no control over how it's used.
You can remove digital assets from your website or sue for copyright infringement if your content is hotlinked. Still, people can hotlink your images and videos and use them however they want.
If you're operating a family-friendly website or trying to maintain your image as a reputable business, you don't want bad actors using your assets in a negative way.
Increases server costs for the host site due to bandwidth theft
Image hotlinking isn't just about stealing media—this practice also puts more stress on the servers your website uses.
When a hotlinked image or video is loaded on another website, it uses bandwidth from your server. In some cases, you may have to pay higher hosting costs to make up for the additional bandwidth that's being used through hotlinking.