How to avoid saving spaceball.gif at Flickr

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 29, 2007
Updated • Dec 15, 2012
Tutorials, Yahoo

Some images at Flickr are weakly protected with an image overlay called spaceball.gif. Whenever you right-click the image to save it you do save spaceball.gif instead which is a 1x1 pixel image showing nothing at all. The same happens if you try to drag the image to your desktop or hard drive.

However, if a photo is shown on the screen it can be saved. The easiest way to achieve this is by blocking spaceball.gif from being loaded when visiting Flickr. You can do this in Firefox if you have the Adblock extension installed. When you are viewing an image at Flickr that you can't save because of the spaceball.gif overlay you do the following to block the overlay.

Hit CTRL + SHIFT + B to open the list of blockable items. Navigate to the entry with spaceball.gif at the end and choose to block this item by right-clicking it. This prevents that spaceball.gif is loaded so that you can save any items at Flickr by right-clicking it.

Opera has a similar function. Just go to Tools > Advanced > Blocked Content and click Add in the menu. Paste the url * into the new entry and close the menu. (via Cybernetnews)

There are other options, and one that I'd like to show you in addition is to simply browse your browser cache to find the image. As you know, images and other website elements get saved to the local system by the browser to speed up the loading of them. This is for instance the case for a logo of a website that does not need to get loaded from the Internet on every page you visit on it.

Flickr images that you view on the Internet are also automatically saved to the local system. They are in fact automatically downloaded, so that you only need to browse your browser cache to find them and copy them to another location on your system. Keep in mind that only the images that you see will be saved.


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  1. Rechelle Lee said on December 29, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Another way is by looking at the media using Firefox’s page-info. Tools->Page Info->Media. You’ll know if it’s the image because it’ll show at the Media Preview box. Then just click Save As…

  2. Anonymous said on May 31, 2010 at 2:41 am

    Thank you so much! And for the people who call this “stealing”, what I’m doing with these pictures is printing them out and creating an “inspiration wall” in my room. So, if anything, I’m respecting the pictures ;D

  3. Matthew said on May 26, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    You can also view the source code of the flickr page and search for: class=”reflect” … This is the class name give to any image tag protected by the spaceball.

  4. Marius said on May 12, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Thank you

  5. Terry Robertson said on May 7, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Holy crap, Flickr’s user base is a bunch of morons.

    I love how the people who like to hide behind copyright laws don’t actually have a clue how they work.

    To begin with, it immediately shows that you don’t understand the concept of ‘intellectual property’ when you refer to the act of copyright infringement as ‘theft’. If you think of IPs as rivalrous goods, then you need to look that term up somewhere. The act of somebody copying a file over a computer in no way deprives you of that file; it is not in any meaningful sense ‘stolen’. It may be misapproprion, if malicious, but it’s not theft. It’s not as if I’m taking an analog photograph away from you, so that you no longer have it.

    By publicly posting your photos on Flickr, you are essentially suspending your exclusive right to copy the image (at least temporarily), as the file needs to be copied to the end-user’s machine for them to see it. This isn’t even like it’s just being stored in RAM; it is (in most cases) copied as an actual file sitting in a cache directory on your hard drive. Images aren’t displayed over the internet through gypsy magic – they are copied, and transmitted. If you don’t clear the cache directory, just viewing a photo on Flickr could cause the file to sit on your hard drive for years.

    Most jurisdictions permit the private copying of an protected work for personal use, particularly in the case of ‘fair use’ and ‘fair dealing’ doctrines anyway; saving images published on the web to your computer for private personal use isn’t insidious at all, and it’s virtually never viewed as an actionable offense by a court.

    In a fairly strict formal view, saving the .jpg to a hard drive, rather than returning to view it on Flickr each time will result in fewer instances of copying it overall. Once it’s on your hard-drive, the only copying is into RAM when it’s displayed on the screen; every time you reload the image from Flickr, it’s copied between several servers before reaching you, then again to your computer’s cache, then again into RAM to view it as loaded in the browser.

    Considering that Flickr gives access to anybody, and it’s policy prohibits using the site for commercial purposes, it’s not as if somebody saving your images is interfering with your ability to sell them (at least not any more than posting them for free on Flickr yourself does).

    This is not to say that people who violate your other exclusive or moral rights under copyright law should be free to do so; if someone republishes your work for example, you are well within reason to be irritated. Completely preventing these occurances is impossible; content publishers are lazy, and easy to fool, while the people who do the fooling are often sneaky.

    Now, typically, anyone who plans to exploit your photos for commercial or derivative usage will know how to bypass the type of technical restrictions Flickr might put into place, so the primary people who will be stopped are the ignorant, and the innocent, not the malicious.

    I don’t even have a problem with the hackjob ‘spaceball.gif’ method of hiding the image. If you want to make it irritating to save via standard browser commands, that’s fine. But don’t expect that noone will be able to access the image; as said above, it’s already been copied and saved by the time it’s visible on the screen.

    Most browsers even have a ‘save page’ function which will dump the html and any connected images into a directory for you. Take that, DRM!

    If you don’t want your images to be digitally copyable, then stop trying to pretend that they are being published in a book, and just publish them in a book. Or sell them. Or keep them to yourself. That’s the only way to prevent people from copying them, illegaly or not.

    tl;dr: You can’t, and shouldn’t stop people from saving web images for private use.

  6. SHaw said on April 18, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Shame on all of you for stealing

  7. John said on March 21, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    “can’t believe !!!” is an idiot. If you don’t want your photos to be saved by people, don’t post them on the internet for world to see, you moron. Also, not everybody who is saving pics is doing so to steal someone’s credit. I save pics because I don’t want to waste time finding that picture on flickr again if I want to see it again.

  8. slidell said on January 26, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Copyright theft is a crime!!!!
    In the United States, statutory damages are set out in Title 17, Section 504 of the U.S. Code. The basic level of damages is between $750 and $30,000 per work, at the discretion of the court.
    Plaintiffs who can show willful infringement may be entitled to damages up to $150,000 per work.

  9. Another trick said on January 18, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Just to let you guys know. Any image from the net can be saved as a jpeg with any browser with the simple snipping tool that comes preloaded with Windows!! For anyone that thinks the other way is too hard or doesn’t want to use firefox just use that instead. And just for future reference if you don’t want people saving your images from your account than its as simple as not posting them on the internet for the whole world to see.

  10. Matt D. said on December 8, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Works fine. Piece of cake! Thx

  11. Your Mom said on November 10, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    I love that you are posting directions of how to ILLEGALLY STEAL COPYRIGHT PROTECTED IMAGES and yet y’all seem fine with it.


    1. Martin said on November 10, 2009 at 5:21 pm

      This article explains technical possibilities. Do you really think that a silly transparent image will keep anyone from download the photo? For god’s sake, all someone would need to do is to look in the web browser cache to find the photo in there. The protection itself is weak and unnecessary.

  12. it works said on September 1, 2009 at 1:01 am

    works with the current version of firefox/adblock, but you need to right click on the image and go to “adblock image”. From there it’s a snap. Thanks for the idea!

  13. Chris B said on August 8, 2009 at 5:08 am

    It works fine in Opera as the author says, although the correct url to ban is

  14. Anonymous said on July 9, 2009 at 4:06 am

    omg thanks so much ….there are some cool pics Ive wanted but couldnt say

    thanks again

  15. Drew said on June 15, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    View source is probably the easiest way to get around the spaceball.

    If you have a program that numbers the lines when you view the page source(Something like notepad++), the real address of the picture you want is on line 539.

  16. Heather said on May 25, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Thanks man! :)

  17. Rosston Meyer said on April 24, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    Or, just use Firebug.

  18. Sigivald said on April 14, 2009 at 12:10 am

    It may be easier and faster to add a rule like “http:/*/spaceball.gif”.

    The only downside is if you ever look for GIFs from the movie “Spaceballs”, which isn’t real likely.

  19. Alisha said on March 11, 2009 at 7:25 pm


  20. cave said on February 15, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    It dose work! Thank you!!

  21. Liem Thanh Tran said on January 8, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    However, if a photo is show it can be saved. The easiest way to achieve this is by look “ABOVE” the image have a link; in this case is Pink water buffalo picture:,938&sigr=11j155qp5&sigi=11d594om7&sigb=13pjtgoq7&sigh=119ti0evl

    Above the Pink water buffalo picture is showing this line:

    “Below is the host webpage with the image in its original context”.

    Click the link; you will get the web page of Pink water buffalo stand alone by itself. Now you go to the menu on the top, click (View—>Source), you will get Microsoft Notepad contained the Source Codes of Pink water buffalo web page.

    Next, go to the top menu of Microsoft Notepad, click (Edit—–> Find) and type into the box: JPG, then click “Find Next” (some time you have to click the button Up or Down).

    Finally, the “Link” contain of the Pink water buffalo image JPG will be found:

    Open a “New” Microsoft Internet window Explorer, copy the link above to the Address and Go. You have a Pink water buffalo image with out the spaceball.gif overlay, now you can Right Click or save the whole Pink water buffalo web page to your computer.

    It’s that easy!

    Liemtran308 (Tám Lúa)

    Home page: (coloring book)

  22. Mutant said on December 9, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Now the shortcut for opening blockable items list for firefox 3
    is ctrl+shift+V.

  23. Ryan said on November 26, 2008 at 8:03 am

    is there any way i can do this with internet explorer? im using windows vista. if anyone can help, please e-mail me with the instructions at

  24. rome said on November 12, 2008 at 9:36 am

    thanks, really usefull.

  25. james said on August 29, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    it worked perfectly. i’m going on a spree.

  26. easier said on August 15, 2008 at 9:09 am
  27. ARX said on June 21, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Agreeing with the fella above: if you’re so into your photos not being downloaded by anyone, DON’T PUT THEM ONLINE. Simple. So get off the sanctimonious trip, and close your photo albums to the world.

    1. Exactly said on January 30, 2011 at 7:02 pm

      Why else would they be teaching kids in school about not sharing personal information including photos of themselves?

      Simple. People have ways of getting around filters and security.

      If you’ve ever watched a crime scene investigation show you can see how police can even track a photo back to it’s original source.

      Hackers can do this as well.

      Simply put, uploading photos on the internet is like leaving your purse or credit card in the middle of a busy sidewalk. You never know who will find it, the good samaritan who returns it or the local pickpocket who keeps it.

      It all sums up to don’t upload anything you wouldn’t want to loose or have stolen.

  28. why not said on May 23, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    Works perfectly! Thanks….Regarding the previous comment which says “are you trying to steal pictures from there ???
    because this is not funny at all !!!
    spaceball is to protect our own pictures !!!
    shame !!!”….Well…why does Flickr claim that “Share your photos…watch the world”. It’s supposed to be a “free site” to share photos.So where does the question of “stealing” comes?

    1. Jeremy said on December 24, 2013 at 4:54 pm

      This applies to every single one of the complainers and moaners on this site.

      lesson 1: Don’t put anything on the internet you aren’t prepared to let go of!

      lesson 2: I know freaks like you would like to have trusted computing and all that so no one could do what they wanted with their machines, but you can stick that right back up your arse, sir.

      lesson 3: No matter what control schemes you try to come up, we will ALWAYS find a way around them. ALWAYS, got it?

      lesson 4: The spaceballs and transparent gif scheme was always lousy and you are a fool for believing that would ever stop anyone above the amateur level.

    2. Anonymous said on December 17, 2010 at 3:21 am

      Exactly it’s called share your photos. Not give away your photos. Watch the world, not take it.
      And since when has flickr ever advertised itself as place to grab free photos for your desktop wallpaper? Never.

      What you’re doing is stealing an artists work,
      there is no other way of saying it.

  29. can't believe !!! said on February 21, 2008 at 2:59 am

    are you trying to steal pictures from there ???
    because this is not funny at all !!!
    spaceball is to protect our own pictures !!!
    shame !!!

    1. your acctions said on January 30, 2011 at 6:45 pm

      You chose to view this page!

      why would you search for it if it upsets you?!

      Go troll somewhere else!

  30. renel said on February 12, 2008 at 11:38 am

    i cant make it work

  31. jose said on January 13, 2008 at 1:52 am

    opera also works!!!

  32. Anti-Spaceball said on November 15, 2007 at 3:57 am

    WOW! It truly works. I didn’t realize that it could be this simple.

  33. Mutant said on October 17, 2007 at 2:18 am

    It really works.

  34. Simon Templar said on September 29, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    It would probably be a good idea to empty your browser cache before or after applying this hack.

  35. zoso said on September 29, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    i got it banned, but it still loads.

  36. Benóný (Iceland) said on September 29, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Is there no other way of doing this? I mean without using Adblock?

  37. Martin said on September 29, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    it does work, please explain what you did and what is happening

  38. zoso said on September 29, 2007 at 9:26 am

    doesn’t quite work

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