Why I Embed My Images

I pay good money for my hosting and enjoy rock-solid service (well, semi-solid at least) from a reliable hosting company.

Despite running several domains, I am nowhere near my bandwidth limit for my account and am in no danger of going over my allotted 1 TB of bandwidth. I could probably host all of my sites many times over without any problems terms of raw transfer.

Yet, whenever I want to insert media files into my site, be it images or mp3s of the podcast, I seek out alternative hosting. Be it from a photo sharing site such as Photobucket or, my current favorite, a file hosting site such as Boxstr (see update below), I offload these media files as much as practical.

Why do I do this? To protect this site and ensure that, no matter what happens, it stays up. By offloading these media files, I mitigate against not one, but two of the biggest threats that this site could face on the Web and avoid some potential headaches down the road.

The Digg Effect

One of the most obvious reasons for offloading media files is to shield against any sudden spikes in bandwidth use. As a site that has survived two Digg Effects, a Slashdotting, mentions on Boing Boing, an appearance Fark and dozens of StumbleUpon runs, Plagiarism Today has seen what traffic spikes can do and. Fortunately, since the move to Media Temple, this site has survived them all with grace.

However, that doesn’t completely eliminate the threat. After all, if a large image, or worse yet a podcast, hits the front page of Digg that bandwidth can still disappear pretty quickly. Offloading it ensures that, even if the media goes down, the site remains viable and that I am not slammed with overages by my host. That serves me better and it serves the visitors better.

However, the truth be told, even if a large file on my server hit Digg, I could probably survive with minimal trouble. One TB of data would likely take over a million downloads to use up completely.

In truth, the real reason is much trickier and, sadly, much more likely. Worst of all, it is a risk I expose myself to solely by what I write about.

Fair Use and Evildoers

When I started Plagiarism Today, I knew that I was going to be held to the highest standards both in terms of copyright and attribution. There have been many times that I’ve wanted to do something with this site but felt that the copyright issues were just too uncertain, even if others on the Web were doing the exact same thing with no major problems.

However, in recent months, I’ve made a conscious attempt to add more images, videos and audio files to Plagiarism Today and, over all, I think it’s been a success. However, it opens up a new risk. Where the content on the site is written directly by me, the images are usually screenshots of logos, sample images of a site or other demonstrative works used for clarification.

I am very confident that all of my use is well within the bounds of what would likely be considered fair use and certainly well within what one would call standard practices on the Web.

Still, this doesn’t stop someone from filing a DMCA notice. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from keeping on top of copyright news, it is that the law is generally used for good but, in some cases, can be used stifle free speech.

The mere fact that I am talking about and instructing in the responsible use of a controversial law almost instantly makes me a target for a false notice, a fact made patently obvious by some of the emails and comments I have gotten.

Quite frankly, given the level the hostility has reached at times, I’m only stunned that it hasn’t happened already.

Teaching Me a Lesson

When analyzing the risks of running this site, I decided that there were two types of individuals likely to file a DMCA notice notice against me.

  • The Anti-Copyright Extremist: This person, upset that I claim anything postive can come out of the notice and takedown system files a DMCA notice against me in order to “teach me a lesson” about the law.
  • The Pro-Copyright Extremist: This person, taking issue with even the most insignificant use of their material, files a DMCA against me because they are upset at my use of a screenshot or other element and generally don’t understand fair use.
  • There was no real way to mitigate against the first kind of extremist. Their claim would have no basis on reality and could just file a notice against anything on the site.

    I did, however, work to find a host with a fair DMCA policy and I know the person who processes claims here at Media Temple. I am confident that, if it did happen I would be able to keep the site live and that they would not simply “pull the plug” like some hosts.

    However, even if my host did shut me down, it would be a disaster for the person filing the notice. As I’ve worked on this site, I’ve come to know and befriend many IP attorneys. Odds are I could find someone to help me go after someone filing a patently false DMCA notice.

    Such an event would not be tolerated.