One of the advantages Hypertext Mark-up Language has over, say, a Word document, is that due to the wonders of hyperlinking, the actual location of an inline picture is completely irrelevant. This can save disk space and download time, as several documents can share the same image. Images can even reside on a completely different […]
One of the advantages Hypertext Mark-up Language has over, say, a Word document, is that due to the wonders of hyperlinking, the actual location of an inline picture is completely irrelevant. This can save disk space and download time, as several documents can share the same image. Images can even reside on a completely different machine. This leaves a loophole for the unscrupulous, though. Why waste your own disk space or overload your own server if the image you want is available elsewhere and you can ‘steal it’ with a link? However, should you feel tempted to do this, consider the story of the page author who included an image of himself and the noted cartoon thespian Scooby Doo on his Web site. He was perplexed to discover that this picture was downloaded more often than the page it was on. A little sleuthing revealed that someone else had linked it into another Web page – even copying the caption Me and Scooby Doo. Rather annoyed, he plotted revenge. First, he renamed the picture and adjusted his own page accordingly. Then he replaced the original file name with a picture of a person and a different dog in – well – lets just call it a compromising position. Other people will do more than make you to be overly intimate with your dog. The big cartoon-strip syndication groups are perhaps the most zealous in attacking misuse of their materials. When United Features Syndicate originally set up its Web site it published cartoons in the form of a GIF file called, in the case of the Dilbert strip, for example, todays_dilbert.gif. Some people simply put the GIF’s full Universal Resource Locator into their own Web pages and instantly had an automatically-updated cartoon. Despite pleas from sites, such as I’m not making any money doing this, or I get loads of people asking for your address so they can buy stuff – so I’m helping you, or the rather feeble you gave me the images, I found them in my browser’s disk cache, United Features! has pretty much made sure the only place you can read Dilbert online is at its own Web site – whe re coincidentally you can see unrelated adverts and buy Dilbert knick-knacks. It also replaced todays dilbert.gif with a graphic telling you to visit the official site. One site, which had rather foolishly semi-mirrored the Dilbert front-end, has even been barred from ever linking to the United Features site again. The syndicates probably have the law on their side. Certainly, in the US State of Georgia they do. Georgia recently passed a law making it illegal to have trademarked or copyrighted images or words on a Web page, without the written and signed permission of the owner. This apparently followed concern over a site claiming to be the State of Georgia home page. The bill is rather ambiguously worded and could refer to anything from a link to Microsoft Corp’s site to a joke FBI seal. Perhaps its only redeeming feature is that it could get rid of those rather annoying Netscape Now and Internet Explorer logos that currently clutter up the vast majority of Web pages. Simon Austin is a regular columnist with D3 Magazine.