The New Reblog, Part 2 – Images Gone Awry

Over the last couple of years WordPress.com has focused on making and promoting its site as a great place for photographers and other visual artists to showcase their work. Multitudes of new themes have been introduced to support these communities in making WordPress.com their home on the web. Sadly, however, it seems that the new Reblog is a far cry from a welcome wagon to those same creative folk if protecting their copyright is any concern.

raincoaster, a long-standing member of the WordPress.com community, posted in the forums about her experience with the new Reblog when she discovered that all the images from the original post she reblogged had been copied to her site’s Media Library. According to a Staff reply in that thread,

“This is actually not a bug, but is intended behavior at this time. We do this intentionally to prevent unwanted changes to reblogged posts”.

To understand the full impact of this behavior, here are screenshots of my test Reblog from Leanne Cole (with her permission) to illustrate what currently happens when someone’s post is reblogged. Please scroll through the Gallery below by opening the first image and reading each image description in the Carousel. You may have to scroll a bit to see it.

All in all, a total of 27 images from Leanne’s original post were pulled in to my test site’s Media Library, while only 2 images were actually used in my Reblog of her post; one image for the featured image and the second for the image in the post.

I would like to believe that this is a bug, in spite of what Staff have said. Otherwise how can WordPress.com legally justify copying images, let alone the wholesale transfer of the full visual content of someone’s post, to another WordPress.com site’s Media Library? This behavior does not come under “fair use” and entirely ignores copyright owner’s rights. At the very most, displaying the one or two images used in the Reblog may fall under “fair use,” but not their actual copy and transfer to another user’s website.

Let me explain a little further. Every single WordPress.com site comes with unlimited bandwidth and one can “hotlink” from one WordPress.com site to another WordPress.com site without the onerous tag of stealing another person’s bandwidth, which, indeed, is a legitimate concern when the other person is paying for bandwidth. Looking at the few earlier Reblogs I have done, I do not find a single image from those Reblogs in my own site’s Media Library and, therefore, can only conclude that those images are being hotlinked from the original WordPress.com site.

In that context, let’s revisit that Staff reply (and the added emphasis is mine):

… is intended behavior at this time. We do this intentionally to prevent unwanted changes to reblogged posts.

I read that to mean that WordPress.com’s concern here is not to break a Reblog should the original content be removed or changed by the original post creator, from whose site the images were previously hotlinked.

Under the WordPress.com  Terms of Service :

By submitting Content to Automattic for inclusion on your Website, you grant Automattic a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting your blog. If you delete Content, Automattic will use reasonable efforts to remove it from the Website, but you acknowledge that caching or references to the Content may not be made immediately unavailable.

The Staff reply above would appear to contradict the last part of that clause about “caching or references to the Content may not be made immediately unavailable.” If I choose to delete or change or transfer my content elsewhere, I certainly would not want my original content to continue to appear on someone else’s WordPress.com’s website. Furthermore there is nothing in the Terms of Service that I see which condones copying and transferring my images to someone else’s website.

Is WordPress.com now going to be responsible for removing images from each and every website’s Media Library that acquired them through reblogging? Can WordPress.com guarantee that the re-blogger isn’t going to reuse those images in another manner that perhaps the original creator may not find acceptable?

And the only notification that Leanne received was the pingback notification that I had reblogged her original post on my test site. According to Leanne,

I had no idea that [Ed: image transference]  was happening, my posts get reblogged all the time and that means there are so many copies of my images in so many other media libraries.  Of course the worse thing is that you get asked to approve it, but it is too late and you can’t stop it.  You should have that option to stop people from reblogging your posts.

As mentioned in my earlier post on the New Reblog WordPress.com site owners can now disable the Reblog button in their Dashboard’s Sharing Settings. However, this will affect only the Reblog button which appears in your posts, as well as in the WordPress.com Admin bar. It does not affect the Reblog button in the WordPress.com Reader, which will continue to show.

Sadly, however, this does not address the very legitimate additional concern about the wholesale copy and transfer of images from one site to another which is done without the knowledge and consent of the original copyright owner.

If this is not a bug, as Staff have indicated, it is very, very disconcerting.

Again, many thanks to Leanne for agreeing to be the reblog victim to illustrate this post.

Author: JenT

Celebrating 10 years on WordPressdotcom! When not herding cats, I can usually be found setting up or customizing someone's WordPressdotcom blog, spelunking in the Support documents or helping out in the WordPressdotcom Community forums. Talk to me about taking your message to the world on WordPressdotcom (the hosted version).

11 thoughts on “The New Reblog, Part 2 – Images Gone Awry”

  1. Kvetch or kvell! ?? How about a few comments, rants and observations? 🙂

    Reblog is not universally liked.

    If the pictures in the Reblog are hot linked, that gives the original Post owner the ability to break a Reblog by simply deleting the original picture and uploading a new one, Since the Reblog code is not visible the image can’t be fixed at the Reblog. The moving of a couple of pictures to the Reblog as noted above keeps the Reblog from being broken in this way, but moving ALL the images is still puzzling

    A digression and side note, over at WordPress.ORG installs some of the common methods of dealing with hot linking was to replace the original picture with a new one of the same name but, a 1px by 1px dot image, or a same sized image that was usually white and had text to the effect of “Stolen from web site without permission” or the new image could be a vile porn picture. That did tend to reduce hot linking for some reason.

    But what about the case of the original blogger using an image that they don’t have the rights to? Not all that unusual, and the original blogger is served with a take down notice and the image is removed. Now with the image also stored safely on the Reblog blog the image is not now removed from the Reblog. WordPress.com has now enabled content theft and is protecting the stolen content and forcing the image owner to file more take down notices.

    About the “fair use” and the images stored on another web site, a question for the lawyers, would not the word “use” mean something, in that as long as the images are stored and not displayed they are not “used.” I see many sites that say “may be downloaded for personal use but not used on another web site or for commercial use” or words to that effect. Would not stored but not used get the Reblogger off the hook a bit? But the Reblogger does now have extra material in their media library that is useless.

    The “new” Reblog now makes it easy to grab all the images from a Post, no more copy one image at a time!!

    So if you did not mind messing up your site a bit, put LARGE images after the break to fill up the Reblogger’s Media Library with content they don’t use and probably don’t know they have on their site, then clean up your Post after a few days with proper sized images and delete the LARGE ones.

  2. All good points.

    I can see the risk that a re-blogger could run if the original blogger swaps out an image or removes it.

    What if someone puts up an image by mistake – and takes it down and meanwhile it is re-blogged?

    Do all the re-blogged images add to the total file size of the images on the re-blogger’s site? Does careless re-blogging run the risk that the re-blogger will hit the 3.0 GB upload limit?

    One way for the original blogger to avoid the problem is to host the images elsewhere and link from the URL…

    1. Thanks for answering one of my big questions about this issue…I upload all of my photos to Smugmug and then post by URL. So I’m assuming by your comment, that when someone reblogs a post of mine, they are not gaining access to all of my images in that post?

      1. I’d be happy to try it and post the results, but since it appears that you’ve disabled the Reblog button on your site, I’ll have to use the Reader. 🙂

      2. I did disable it. I don’t know what to do. I had one post reblogged 10 times this week, and only one was legit! The rest were just scraper blogs. My travel posts are often reblogged, especially ones from places like Thailand. And they end up associated with a lot of sleazy stuff on those sites. It’s very upsetting. I don’t want to be associated with those things, and yet, to someone who doesn’t know, it looks like I am. Love your blogs! Looking forward to learning lots of interesting things now that I’ve subscribed.

      3. As you should disable it! Also, since reblogging is a unique to WPcom feature, I trust you reported each and every site your content was reblogged to! Use the “Report this content” link in the Admin bar when you visit the reblog.

        The Daily Post recently published a post on Reblog netiquette. While interesting, it doesn’t address the behind-the-scenes problems with the new Reblog. To highlight these problems, I’ve just set up http://rebloggedyourposton.wordpress.com/

  3. Thank you both for your thoughtful comments. They only strengthen my initial feeling that reblogging is a feature fraught with unresolved problems that have serious implications for both WordPress.com and its users. Now the question is whether WordPress.com will address these problems.

    (Ed: This comment was edited from the original.)

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