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As for Google's image search, IMO there could be an effect. In fact probably not a good one, since the linking site could show up in the image SERPs for the host site's picture. You see this all the time.
As far as I can tell the only thing you are doing is stealing bandwidth. If I was www.widgets.com I would not be happy
Actually its the other way round. I have developed a service providing images to people and am wondering whether to let them simply "save" the image created to use, or serve it (its less than 1k). The latter I would only really do if it gave me a backlink benefit, hence the question.
Also bear in mind, while it serves an image, the actual IMG SRC link people would use would be to a PHP script on the server that simply delivers the image.
[edited by: Simsi at 10:44 am (utc) on Dec. 13, 2006]