The debate about image hotlinking has progressed in several different directions since my post on the subject on Wednesday.
On the one hand my good friend and Wibsite Technical Director Chris has produced a splendid graphic for sidebars and such places for those who do not get it. My only worry is that people won’t get it. Please note that you may not hotlink this image. It also occurred to me that I really should be taking the chance to promote this cartoon whilst it’s topical…
On a more serious note Andrew has replied graciously on his blog, and whilst I don’t agree with everything he says I can understand his argument. As he said in my comments section below there are large areas of grey, but I wanted to respond to a couple of points. Firstly from Andrew’s blog:
“But it seems absurd to me, in the internetworked, hyperlinked environment of the blogosphere, to expect to succeed in business without allowing some hotlinking.”
It may just be that my methods are absurd. But before I launched the CartoonChurch.com site I thought long and hard about what access and usage I was going to allow for my material. My slolution is I think quite unusual for a cartoonist in that I allow full and free access to all the cartoons I am selling – not just the low resolution versions but the full size high quality versions too. There is no members only area, no need to sign up for a password and no need to hand over credit card details before seeing the work in all it’s glory / non-glory. I’m taking a risk in that there is nothing stopping people ripping me off and using the work without permission, but I decided to attempt at least to be generous in my sharing of the work even if people could potentially, if they wished, abuse that freedom.
Then from my comments section:
“Thanks to the democratizing structure of the Internet, you have potential access to a larger audience than ever before, and hotlinking to your site, if done properly (with appropriate credit and ALT tags), could result in even more sales for your product — and certainly more buzz, more awareness.”
I’m just not sure that that is true. It might be, but I’m really not sure about it. Let me give you an example. One of my more popular online cartoons has been my Windsor report series. Published online on the day the report was released it became quite popular and recieved quite a lot of links from bloggers around the world. As a result doors were opened to other work and really was of quite substantial benefit to my career as a cartoonist. Now, the site this series is posted on, Wibsite.com, does allow image hotlinking. And sure enough, a number of blogs did decide that they were going to republish my full set of 10 or so images on their blogs and there was little I could do to stop them, short of lots of bothersome e-mailing which felt wrong in any case as these were people who were enjoying my work. So I let them do it, which did cost me money as our Wibsite hosting is ‘pay as you go’, meaning every extra megabyte does cost me more. Not a lot more mark you, but if every visitor is downloading 10 images it does add up.
Actually though the true benefit to me from those cartoons didn’t come from the sites that hotlinked the images as the visitors to those sites had no particular reason to click through to my site. Instead it came from the sites which just put the link which meant that visitors clicked through. And from my point of view the advantage of a reader viewing the image on my site is that they then see the links to my other work, instructions on how they can sign up for a licence, my intrusive advertising etc etc.
I’m therefore of the opinion that allowing hotlinking on this site isn’t in my interests at the moment. I hope that the fact I’m giving so much free access to my work does demonstrate that this isn’t out of meanness but rather because I’m doing what I think I need to do to make a living.
Having said this I probably do need to work out ways to allow bloggers to use occasional images and I do need to have more documentation about this somewhere on the site. The comments on the previous post on the subject have been very helpful in this respect and I will when I have time follow up on Andrew’s book recommendation. I’m also adding bloggedy blog to my Bloglines list, the moral of the story being that if you’d like me to subscribe to your blog then offering some criticism in a comments section somewhere is probably the way to go about it…