The Kanye West Video Controversy

And I’m not even talking about the ludicrous content of the video (Click here to watch Kanye West video).

In this post [*** Post deleted, shown in the extended entry and as a PDF] Dan Riehl notes that Michelle Malkin linked to a video of a male stripper in her post about Kanye West’s anti-Bush tirade on NBC’s Friday hurricane telethon. The reason she linked to a male stripper video is because she directly linked to a video file at Riehl’s site; a file he later changed to the male stripper video.

Riehl then compares the incident to a notorious incident that occurred at the Huffington Post, right after they first launched. His comparison, however, is somewhat flawed…

Using the HTML <IMG> tag to show a picture hosted at another site (RedState in the HuffPo example) is the classic definition of hotlinking. Linking direct to a video file, while bad etiquette, isn’t quite as the same offense. The difference is that it does not tax the bandwidth of the video host unless the reader actually clicks the link to view the video (something they presumably would do if they followed a link to the video host web site). What the video host looses by direct links to media files is the HTML page view of the page they’ve linked the video on. That page view is important for traffic statistics and ad sales, both of which must have their tracking code executed by and HTML page. Direct links to the video short circuit those counters measuring the traffic, hence presumably lead to loss of ad revenue.

So there’s a subtle difference between hotlinking a picture (that hits the other site every time one of your pages loads) and direct linking to a video file. Those who host video files on a regular basis are well aware of the direct link practice and more often than not take one of a handful of simple measures to prevent it. At Wizbang it’s not possible to direct link to one of our videos – all links to a video file must come from this domain. When a site direct links a video the user is redirected to the WizbangTV Archive page where they can find and then watch the video. Mainstream media outlets use their video server software to obscure the name of the video file to prevent direct links, and some are even displaying videos in Macromedia’s Flash format to prevent any video linking.

As is probably evident this isn’t a new issue on the wider ‘Net, it’s one that’s been fleshed out over several years. For the blogosphere, and specifically those who fancy themselves video bloggers, it’s imperative that they understand direct link defenses before they get into the video hosting business, lest they end up with a several thousand dollar hosting bill – as many sites did during the South East Asia tsunamis. Of course even direct link protection won’t save your bandwidth if people all come view your video via a web page once they watch the video – especially if the incoming link is from and ultra-high traffic site like Drudge or FARK.

All that is backdrop to Riehl’s complaint (shown in the extended entry and as a PDF) that Malkin “hotlinked” him. Here’s the text of the message Dan sent to a blind cc: list (yes I was on that list…)

NBC Video
Just listen to this via NBC – went over every network, I’m told.

George Bush doesn’t care about black people, they’ve been given permission to go down there and shoot us.
(Note: Don’t bother clicking the link, but in the e-mail was a direct link to the actual video file)Malkin used the link to the video, and listed Reilly’s site by name (but didn’t include the link to his post). At this point Malkin has basically used the content of a message sent to her by another blogger (a common practice), but she didn’t include a link to the post where the video was discussed (less common, but not unheard of). The text of her link to the video was Reilly’s site name.

In an addendum to her story, Malkin says…

A footnote about the “hacked” video. Last night, I linked to the West video at Dan Riehl’s site after he e-mailed me a link to it. I hat-tipped him by name and thanked him by e-mail. He later sent me another e-mail, which I missed and did not find until this afternoon, requesting that I use a link to his post instead of the link to the video that he had sent. In the meantime, Riehl got mad about what he saw as insufficient credit to him, put the porn video up himself to replace the Kayne West video, and now accuses me of stealing his bandwidth. I regret that I missed his e-mail and am sorry he feels I didn’t credit him enough. I’m even sorrier that such an honest misunderstanding exposed my readers to the obscene video.

A note to other bloggers: In the future, if you do not want me to link to something on your site, please do not send me links and e-mails asking me to do so. Thank you.I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that Riehl wasn’t upset about lack of credit, but lack of traffic stats. His is one of the sites that has had a massive increase in traffic due to continuous coverage of the Natalie Holloway story. Since he’s accused another site of traffic stat shenanigans, I tend to suspect that he may have a bit of a case of “stat obsession.” Since Malkin’s link wasn’t to a HTML page, the SiteMeter wasn’t ringing up visitors.

So what lessons can we learn from this little scuffle?

  • Much like the adage about never putting anything in an e-mail you don’t want to see on the front page of the Washington Post, don’t send HTML links to other bloggers you don’t want them to use. By that I mean a direct link to a video file.
  • Linking directly to a media file at another site is risky business especially if you’re sending lots of traffic. If you do link directly to a video, don’t be surprised if the link is later blocked or altered.
  • If you’re hosting videos you better be prepared for direct linkers because, unless you keep an obsessive eye on your server logs, they can eat up your bandwidth before you even notice.
  • Before accusing another blogger of negligent behavior, assess your own culpability in the sequence of events.
  • Deleting a post (as Riehl appears to have done) doesn’t put the Genie back in the bottle, especially after you e-mail the wider blogosphere links to your complaint.
  • Protecting your site from direct video links is a lot easier than tangling with other bloggers, especially when they’ve been nothing but nice to you…

    Update: Blaming the whole thing on a “hacker” is just lame. You sent the now deleted post to me (and many others) asking us to condemn Malkin since she hadn’t responded to you. Well she has now, and you’ve suddenly gotten quiet. Dan, you’ve officially made a fool of yourself, as Paterico convincingly points out.

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    Here’s the original complaint entry from Riehl World View…

    Michele Malkin Linked To Male Stripper
    Friday night visitors to Social Conservative Michele Malkin’s web log were in for a shock when they clicked open a link purported to be to a breaking news video of Rapper Kanye West slamming President Bush at a Red Cross Fundraiser recently televised on NBC.

    The link went to a satirical video of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein stripping, eventually down to nothing but a G-string with a mouse face covering his genitals.

    The mix up came about because Michele Malkin, known for her strong stands on issues of morals, ethics and values, was, in effect, stealing band width and perceived credit for a news scoop from a fellow blogger.

    AT 9:02 PM EST Friday night, soon after airing, a media colleague who was taping the fundraiser emailed me a copy of the video, well before it was even mentioned on breaking news site the Drudge Report, let alone Malkin’s page. The video was posted promptly and a link emailed out to several fellow bloggers. As of now, 15 bloggers have track backed to the video appropriately, but not Michele Malkin. Also as of now, forty bloggers have tracked back to her original post.

    Instead, Malkin gave a text only hat tip by name, not even mentioning the site where the video was breaking and hosted and proceeded to hot-link the 2MB video. Noticing the issue after Malkin sent a thank you saying she had “linked” the post, I immediately sent Malkin a polite email asking that she correct the likely mistake. The email drew no response.

    As the evening went on I decided to change the name of the file, assuming a Malkin reader would advise her of the then dead link – which I tested. Instead, Malkin changed the name of the file in her link to the new file name and went right back to hot linking the news video a second time.

    Remembering an incident where The Huffington Post had hot-linked a photo posted by Mike Krempasky at Krempasky’s comments at the time:

    Arianna, Arianna — we’re so glad you’re here. But if you want to become the celebrity darling of the InterWeb — how about not stealing and taking credit for the creative, investigative, and deliberative work from other, legitimate bloggers? Better yet, how about this: once you’ve taken an image and given no credit, why not rub salt in the wound and just go right ahead and hotlink it?

    That’s right, just steal bandwidth from the little guys. We’ll roll over for you just like we were the California electorate. Just because you reportedly throw one heck of a cocktail party doesn’t mean you’ve got this Internet thing licked.

    I followed Mike’s example. Krempasky altered the photo when the unethical practice went uncorrected, so I decided to do the same and changed relevant file names to send the link to the dancing Saddam video. The original breaking video is now entitled: “Please don’t hotlink my video.”

    Rather than acknowledge the error, Michale Malkin chose to remove all mention of “Dan Riehl” and opted to link to CrooksandLiars, whose servers are now, in their words “maxed,” perhaps in part due to the video posted well-after my breaking story, perhaps obtained from another source.

    When Arianna Huffington perpetrated what is considered to be a serious ethical error among well-known bloggers she was reproached by many fellow bloggers on the center and right side of the blogosphere. What remains to be seen is if bloggers will stand on principle, or if the highly ranked Michele Malkin blog can dance away from its unethical practices unscathed.

    At this point, in my view, Malkin has robbed a fellow blogger of credit and bandwidth associated with a breaking news event, since covered by almost every television network. And she did it to a previously absolutely collegial blogger who has linked her site, as well as her Immigration blog repeatedly.

    Update: I’ve since been informed of the comment below posted by her on her website.

    9:50am 9/3 update: The Kayne West video I originally linked to got hacked. Sincere apologies to everyone who got tricked into watching the wrong video. The link has now been corrected; the new video is courtesy of Crooks and Liars

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