How to Prevent Image Hotlinking?

As this network is still in its infancy, I thought it would be useful to write articles for the target audience of other health and fitness bloggers.  As I’ve mentioned previously, just trying to stay up to date on health and fitness trends can be time-consuming enough.  If you add to the mix the hassles of hosting and maintaining a WordPress blog, then there probably just isn’t enough time in the day.

What Is Image Hotlinking?

In a nutshell, hotlinking refers to using an image hosted on someone else’s website for your blog post or entry.  In the past, when I first started blogging, it was something that I did frequently.  Why?  I wasn’t aware of the etiquette and consequences of hotlinking.

Hotlinking is commonly referred to as “bandwidth theft” since you place extra load on the server of the site hosting the image.  Basically, it usually involves direct linking of images, but can include other content like video that’s hosted on another website.  In most cases, you’re hotlinking if you insert an image into your blog post by URL from another website instead of uploading your own image.

Again, back when I used to maintain a blog on, I found it much easier and unfortunately very convenient to add an image to blog posts by URL.  At the time, I wasn’t even aware that I was hotlinking images.  Most blogging platforms make it much easier to hotlink an image rather than to take the time to upload an image from your computer.

What’s Wrong with Hotlinks?

  • First, there’s a good chance that you may be violating copyright laws by hotlinking images from certain websites.
  • Secondly, though your own blog might not cause much server load on the site hosting a particular image, if enough other websites also hotlink the same image, the impact on the host server could be significant.
  • Lastly, if you hotlink an image from another site, that image can change at ANY TIME.  If the host of that images decides to cut off hotlinked images, they can replace that image with anything that want.  READ:  this image will replace the original image that you hotlinked which can lead to embarrassing results.

Bandwidth theft:

Bandwidth refers to the amount of data transferred from a web site to a user’s computer. When you view a web page, you are using that site’s bandwidth to display the files. Since web hosts charge based on the amount of data transferred, bandwidth is an issue. If a site is over its monthly bandwidth, it’s billed for the extra data or taken offline.

A simple analogy for bandwidth theft: Imagine a random stranger plugging into your electrical outlets, using your electricity without your consent, and you paying for it.

What if Hotlinking Happens to You?

If you’ve maintained a blog for a few years and often upload images in your blog post, there’s a good chance several of your images could be hotlinked by other websites. Even websites that use your RSS feed such as Facebook’s Networked blogs, Zimbio, or similar sites often hotlink images.

Depending on your hosting plan, the consequences could include increased cost from your hosting provider, server overloads if you use shared hosting, or simply slower page load times.

How to Stop People from Hotlinking Your Images?

  1. For beginner users of WordPress, there are plugins that can automatically stop hotlinking of your images.  However, one problem that you may find is that they remove images from your blog feed (FeedBurner).  As well, they don’t usually offer much flexibility if you want to allow certain sites to hotlink from you.
    1. WordPress Automatic Hotlink Protection – I haven’t tried it.
  2. For intermediate users of WordPress, there’s a better way IMO to prevent image hotlinking.
    1. You will need to add an .htaccess file to your WordPress/ uploads folder from FTP .  Don’t play around with .htaccess files if you don’t know what you’re doing–it can crash your website!!!
    2. There’s an online tool that will create this .htaccess file for you.  Make sure to put this file in your WordPress / Uploads folder and don’t overwrite the .htaccess file in your root directory.
    3. IF you know what you’re doing, here’s the online tool:  htacess code generator
    4. This tool will allow you to configure which sites you allow to hotlink from you or if you want to redirect their hotlinked images to one like this:

Or you could change the image to something like this–if you use the image feature make sure you change the image file to a .jpe extension or host it somewhere for free like Photobucket (Your new .htaccess file will block images from your own site).

  • Tip: If you use the 2nd method and want to use images in your feeds like FeedBurner, make sure you allow hotlinking from:


This post was written by a guest author and edited by Hive Health Media Staff. If you would like to submit health or fitness news, click here.

4 thoughts on “How to Prevent Image Hotlinking?

  • July 21, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Loved your post organization as it clearly defined the term “hotlinking” first, which I had never heard of. Then you covered the problem and solutions in an easy to track manner. I now know what to do and why! Thanks!

  • July 8, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Hey Sean, yeah it goes both ways. I also made the changes to prevent hotlinking of images on the sites that I host to reduce server load. I had other server problems too, but it might have helped.

  • July 5, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    I actually fell victim to this early in my blogging – and like you I didn’t know what I was doing was wrong?
    Thanks for the reminder!


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