How to Embarrass RSS Scrapers Who Hotlink to Your Images

2 days ago I discovered that a site was republishing my full text RSS feed including images downloaded straight from my web server.

My feed clearly states “Re-publishing this RSS feed in full is not allowed” so I asked them to please stop republishing it or change it to a summary of each article.

They refused my polite request to stop stealing my content and images so I decided to embarrass them, this is how I did it…

This guide should be helpful for other people whose images are being directly linked to from other sites. It assumes a certain level of technical knowledge and works on Apache web servers with Mod_Rewrite and use of custom .htaccess files enabled:

  1. Create an .htaccess file in the root directory of your website
  2. Create and upload to your site in the root directory a bright red image which tells readers of the content thieves site that they’re dirt rotten thieves eg:

    what a content thieves website looks like

  3. Add the following lines to your .htaccess file:

    RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER}
    RewriteRule imagedirectory/.*(.*) – replace with the name of the site and extension of the site that’s stealing the content eg: if is stealing than use

    imagedirectory – replace this text with the name of the directory from which your images are being stolen. eg: if your images are stored in than use myimages – replace this with the address of the image you’re going to redirect content thieves to when they try and steal images from your website.

  4. Upload your .htaccess file to the root directory of your website

If you do this correctly than the website where your content is being stolen will look like below & people seeing your bright red warning will know that they are thieves:

what a content thieves website looks like

There are many guides to stopping people displaying images directly from your webserver onto their website. The problem is that most of the guides end up blocking good sites which should be allowed to display your images like Google Reader and other RSS feed readers.

The benefit of my method is that it only blocks specific image thief websites and doesn’t effect your website or RSS readers at all.

PS Thank you to Rico from B5Media’s website for linking to this article

8 Replies to “How to Embarrass RSS Scrapers Who Hotlink to Your Images”

  1. PS this is the conversation I had with the content thief site:

    [NAME REMOVED] wrote:
    > We are using your RSS which is public.
    > Remove your RSS and your content wont be on our site.
    > —–Original Message—–
    > From: Neerav []
    > Sent: Wednesday, March 19, 2008 9:28 PM
    > To: Hubdog Support
    > Subject: Re: Delete My Site
    >My feed clearly states that “Re-publishing this RSS feed in
    >full is not allowed” Please stop republishing it or change it
    >to a summary of each article thanks

  2. PS Feedburner and Google Alerts can help you spot content thieves :

    1. Go to the Analyze tab -> Uncommon Uses in your Feedburner account management

    2. Select “Show stats for : last 30 days

    3. See if any feed scraper sites are listed there, if they are follow them up with a warning

    I noticed because I add this text to the top of my feed “Re-publishing this RSS feed in full is not allowed. Published by Neerav Bhatt at using the PostPost wordpress plugin

    I than created a google alert for that search term and I get emailed automatically if Google finds that text on other sites besides mine

  3. This is fantastic! I’m going to try this out. I’m not very savvy when it comes to using code, but it looks like this is easy enough to just cut and paste in. Although I might find something more provocative to say about the content thieves.

  4. Excellent job there with the image thing Neerav. My humourous story about my first and last hotlink, many years ago, about 8 maybe 10 (give or take 5 years either way: who can remember?) years ago. I learnt my lesson early as a youngish naive inteneter, I hotlinked an image back to a Star Wars forum I was on at the time, it was an beaut pic of Han Solo’s Millenium Falcon, the very clever site owner had managed to get an extremely ugly and distasteful shot of a hairy naked male person shot from between the feet from the floor upwards in place of the MF. Ive never hotlinked since. All my images are in Photobucket, so it doesn’t really matter if folks hotlink or not.

    EDITOR: lol, people told me to show image thieves a disgusting image but I thought that was in poor taste

  5. They got what they deserved. And good for you for not displaying a tasteless image. You never know who might have been exposed to it on their site.

  6. TBH, I don’t mind who hotlinks to any of the files on any of my sites. I have tons of bandwidth and the SEs just see it as a backlink. I like backlinks. 😉

    Come to think of it, I used to do this with my eBay listings years ago to improve rankings on all sorts of sites. Stick an image on a site I wanted backlinks for and then reference it in my eBay listings. New pages soon used to get indexed. I’m not sure if that works any more as I don’t need to do it now, but it did at the time.


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