[Foundation-l] discussion about banning external hotlinking

Dan Rosenthal swatjester at gmail.com
Mon Jul 28 07:36:38 UTC 2008

Seriously. Also, I just saw the justification for this and about dropped my

*"We are not a free image host* - *Money and server power is being wasted on
hosting millions of images for websites that are completely unrelated to the
Wikimedia project. Here is an example of a search for en.WP images that do
not mention Wikipedia,
2 mil. We should not be using our servers for this, as I doubt anyone
donated money with this in mind. Copying of free images is obviously fine,
just as it is with text, but we don't (as far as I know) host the text for
any other site, I don't see why we should do this for image"*

No we are not a free (as in beer) image host, but we do host free (as in
beer and liberty) pictures.  The vast majority of these images are not
actually hotlinked anywhere, and take negligible amounts of bandwidth. On
the other hand, by keeping free (as in liberty) images on our servers
(preferably commons) we allow them to be used to benefit future Wikimedia
projects. And the completely irrelevant ones should have some sort of
deletion criteria if they are not being used. I don't see the need to block
hundreds of legitimate sites from hotlinking, and swarm us with negative
publicity for this point.

"*We should not host non-free and fair-use images for anyone to use without
reason* - *Wikipedia hosts many non-free and fair use images for use within
the project, but we can not limit usage of hosted non-free images on other
sites. Ethically and legally is not a good idea to host copyrighted works
for anyone to use with any purpose."*

We don't. Non-free images that are not being used, are supposed to be
deleted. What people do outside of the project is their own concern if our
uses are legitimate; and furthermore it's not within our scope of concern to
be policing external use. Blocking hotlinks is not the solution to this
problem either.

*We bog down Wikipedia with uploads of nonsense photos
*Statistics show that they're less than 2% of bandwidth. $6,000 a year,
tops. Ignoring the blanket statement that the photos are "nonsense" (because
really, who's spent the time to check every one of these millions of photos
and make a qualititative decision on them?) they don't really hurt us.

Now, lets sum up the bad reasons:
1. Miniscule benefit. Implementing technical procedures for miniscule
benefit is usually a bad thing, especially if there are problems and they
don't go well. See below.
2. PR - We are all about getting free content out to people. What kind of
message does it send when we suddenly start restricting that content? The
second this gets picked up on any major news media outlet would be the
second that there is a backlash and petition against the WMF, and we lose
face everytime we say "the sum of all human knowledge" or "bringing free
content to the world"  and get the responce "unless it's hotlinked, right?"
Honestly, I wouldn't think it unforeseeable that we'd lose more money in
lost small donations than we gain in saved bandwidth.
3. Hurts potential business agreements with partner organizations. With this
enabled, NOBODY would be able to hotlink images from us. Not Google, One
Laptop Per Child, not anyone. This potentially hurts our ability to make
business deals with partner organizations.
4. Outside our scope. It's simply not our primary, or even secondary concern
what other people do with our content, but rather what we do with our own
5. Hurts legitimate users from reusing our content to say good things about

Some of these concerns may be slightly overstated, but any one of them
outweighs the lack of benefit from enacting this change, and in the
aggregate they completely outweigh it.


On Mon, Jul 28, 2008 at 3:01 AM, Joe Szilagyi <szilagyi at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Sun, Jul 27, 2008 at 11:57 PM, Dan Rosenthal <swatjester at gmail.com
> >wrote:
> > I fail to see the benefit of this trade off when compared to the extreme
> > negative publicity we'd get for it.  The 2007 finances report says we
> spent
> > approximately $389,000 on internet hosting.
> > 1.5-2% of that is around 6,000 dollars a year.
> >
> > You couldn't hope to buy off the negative publicity we'd get from this
> for
> > a
> > $6,000 a year savings.
> >
> > -Dan
> Agreed. I just saw Tim's numbers on it after mailing out the FYI here. Even
> if it topped at 10k, it's not worth it. Maybe in several years of
> scaling...
> - Joe
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Dan Rosenthal

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