WP Replace Unlicensed and Broken Images

Author CK MacLeod
Contributors ck-macleod
Type Free
Current Version 1.0.5
Last Updated 13 Mar, 2017
Released 19 Jul, 2016
Total Download 2,029
Active Install 30
Support 0 out of 1

WP Replace Unlicensed and Broken Images (WP-RUBI) replaces images selected by date, post, category, author, file location, and/or image type with a user-adjustable default image on a site’s public-facing Front End – in other words, on display – and will also, unlike common Javascript/jQuery solutions for broken images and links, prevent load errors and search engine “crawl” errors that can harm Search Engine Ranking. A primary use will be for sites where – due to policy change or concerns relating to usage rights and copyright infringement – administrators need to expunge images that have been used without permission or under lapsed or lapsing usage licenses, while avoiding a time-consuming, complex, hard-to-reverse, potentially costly and inefficient database purge. Another use will be for sites whose image archives have been corrupted or lost.

WP-RUBI will do nothing until the site administrator has determined which images or types of images to remove and replace. All post images and image links that are matched in posts selected either individually or globally – for instance, all posts from before a certain publication date – will be replaced by links to a simple, customizable “image removed” image when the page is displayed: The change is made just-in-time as the post is loaded, altering the page “source” as rendered, but not affecting the database. If at some future time the site operator wishes to restore lost images, or “whitelist” a post, author, category, time frame, or image type, then the original links and formatting information will still be easily accessible.

WP-RUBI is a powerful plug-in, potentially allowing for far-reaching alterations in your site’s appearance, but it makes no permanent changes to your posts database or image library or any other files: Changes can be immediately rolled back by resetting to defaults via Main Settings, or by de-activating (or uninstalling). Still, as generally with WordPress Plug-Ins, the further your installation diverges from a “basic” WordPress site – by employing unique frameworks, complex themes or plug-ins, or specialized customizations – and the higher your traffic, the more care and caution you should employ when installing, activating, and configuring WP-RUBI.

Also note that WP-RUBI is designed with typical WordPress sites in mind. Though it can also be set to remove and replace copy-protected and externally served images (as long as display relies on <img src= tags), it may not function optimally, if at all, or may require careful adjustment, when used with sites or themes relying on unusual image delivery and display methods, or that significantly diverge from other standard practices: “gallery”-style themes that may extract image links from post content and convert them into CSS backgrounds, for example. More commonly, caching and copy protection plug-ins, CDNs lacking purge options, and so on, may need to be flushed and reset, or in some instances disabled, for WP-RUBI to achieve the intended results.


In recent years, with the maturation of the internet and especially of the “blogosphere,” sites where photos and other images have been copied and displayed without concern for the rights of artists and services have come under enhanced scrutiny, sometimes resulting in costly lawsuits and threats of lawsuits. In addition, some site operators, especially as they have gotten more successful, have simply undergone a change in thinking about common internet practices viewed by some artists as theft.

Many or perhaps most bloggers still operate without concern for image licensing, and some have discovered – sometimes at significant cost – that, as one victim of a “copyright-trolling” lawyer put it, “Current Fair Use image copyright laws say that you’re financially liable for posting copyrighted images.”* You may be liable for unlicensed use of images even if:

  • You did it by accident
  • You immediately take down the picture after receiving a DMCA takedown notice
  • The picture is resized
  • The picture is licensed to your web developer
  • You link back to the photo source and cite the photographer’s name
  • Your site isn’t commercial and you make no money from your blog
  • You have a disclaimer on the site
  • The pic is embedded instead of saved on your server
  • You found it on the Internet (that’s not an excuse!)

The core of this plug-in was originally implemented on a large site in one such predicament: The operators, after having been challenged by a copyright lawyer demanding thousands of dollars in payment for the use of a single unpaid-for image, and facing a steep legal bill even in pursuit of an eventually successful defense, decided to stop displaying any images whose usage rights were not fully cleared.

The operators were left with thousands of unlicensed images associated with archived posts – along with many images that were used fairly (because original to the site or author, or in the public domain). Finding and replacing images as well as image links presented numerous complications: Simply deleting image archives rather than editing the posts would produce numerous load errors, which would harm the site’s search engine ranking, produce unprofessional “broken images” display, and make restoration of good posts difficult where not impossible. Using a Javascript solution that obscured broken images and links might improve display, but would leave errors in place, and have no effect on unwanted images that were not deleted.

Using WP Replace Unlicensed and Broken Images

WP Replace Unwanted and Broken Images enables an Administrator to bring his or her site into effective compliance quickly, and then to recover “good” images if desired, while preserving archives. The plug-in adds numerous additional choices and other improvements to the earlier “WP Replace Old Images,” making it easier for an Administrator to refine the “purge,” and for the site’s editors and authors to restore old posts and archives to full health.

Improvements include:

  • Posts can be excluded or included via Edit Post
  • Posts can be excluded or included via All Posts Quick and Bulk Editing
  • Featured images (or thumbnails) also can be removed/replaced
  • Easy Inclusions or exclusion from image removal/replacement for authors and categories, and for “after” as well as “before” dates
  • Replacement images provided with “cache-busting” queries (so changes to Front End can take effect immediately)
  • User can upload own replacement image from Settings page, or choose “blank” and “erasure” replacement modes
  • Installation routine preserves old settings on upgrade
  • Detailed usage notes/tips/documentation
  • Translation-ready

ALSO NOTE DISCLAIMER: Developer makes no promises or guarantees that use of this plug-in will secure a site against all claims of copyright infringement based on past practices. No one can do that!

*Description and list of Fair Use liability issues from “The $8,000 Mistake That All Bloggers Should Beware”

Additional Info

Still to Come

  1. “Recuperation” workflow – list and select cured/uncured posts/authors/categories
  2. Additional image selection patterns and inclusion/exclusion options
  3. Optional database purge
  4. Development of Digital Artists Alliance site and network

Check the WP-RUBI home pages for additional background, usage tips, and minor updates, or to contact the developer.


To all of the developers and everyday code-hackers, far too numerous to name, upon whose work I have depended. And Thanks to thatgrrl for catching a bad link to the plug-in’s home page!

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