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Court rules scraping a website without permission not illegal

Labeled as information in Legal Discussion started by equity78, Sep 11, 2019.

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  1. equity78

    equity78 Top Member TLDInvestors.com TheDomains Staff PRO Gold Account VIP ★★★★★★★★★★

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    TheNextWeb.com reported that a U.S. court has ruled that scraping data from a public website without permission is not illegal. This is going to prove to be a very interesting case on appeal as it could set a very interesting precedent. From the article: An appeals court situated in California, US, today said it’s not illegal to scrape data from public websites without any prior … [Read more...]
     
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  2. TCK

    TCK NameOptions.com VIP ★★★★★★★★★★

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    As far as I understand it data scraping is done in a major way by Google and others. Google does some very questionable things by reposting answers copied from other sites on their SERPs. Likely a lot of lobbying going on as well. I don’t see a problem with scraping on its own, just how that data is later used.
     
  3. Bob Hawkes

    Bob Hawkes formerly MetBob NameTalent Gold Account VIP

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    I have only read the ruling quickly, but in a way it seems surprising to me as HiQ seem to be out to deliberately benefit from LinkedIn data for what will, in some ways, be a competing business as I understand (I had not heard of HiQ before this, so may be misunderstanding). I think it is important to note that the ruling early on makes clear they are talking about content that users of LinkedIn chose to publicly share on the platform. I don''t think the ruling will necessarily set precedents for cases where the content is created by a company or organization themselves, maybe?

    Anyway, thanks so much @equity78. I am glad you stay on top of so many topics and share what you find both here and on your blog!

    Bob
     
  4. offthehandle

    offthehandle . Gold Account VIP

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    Linked in itself was built off scraping public records without your permission. Zero sympathy, hope they have 12 more competitors.
     
  5. TCK

    TCK NameOptions.com VIP ★★★★★★★★★★

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    All of the current social networks and search engines exist on scraping data, even private. We have no idea how much so. If a court decides that scraping data is unlawful, this would effectively be an end to Google, Facebook, and maybe Linkedin and Twitter. Also sites scrape data from sites that scrape data, like meta search engines.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
  6. offthehandle

    offthehandle . Gold Account VIP

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    This requires Federal action, not state. I don’t believe there is an end to these companies. Google the worlds largest scaper needs to be dismantled, so does every other social media monopoly, it would be great if they were all regulated and forced to share their public data with upstart competitors.

    I am well aware what a mess it is. Google is the largest information gatherer and website owners uninvited intruder the world has known. No webmaster console required, with as little as 30 minutes after installing wordpress Googlebot arrives uninvited. Majestic too, all these SEO bots as well.
     
  7. TCK

    TCK NameOptions.com VIP ★★★★★★★★★★

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    Google has gone way beyond a search engine. All their free services serve to collect (scrape) data.

    One of the worst referral spam is from ahrefs.com. Google ignores their bot on G Analytics. WordPress is also a spam magnet.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
  8. jberryhill

    jberryhill Top Member John Berryhill, Ph.d., Esq. VIP ★★★★★★★★★★

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    Ummm... this WAS the appeal from the trial courts denial of a preliminary injunction, as noted in the first three words of the article....

    The full decision is here:

    http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2019/09/09/17-16783.pdf

    This is not a final decision on the merits of the case, but it is a decision on appeal of a preliminary ruling.

    Unfortunately, reporters tend not to understand the procedural context of court decisions, and will often make mistakes like the one referenced in the OP.

    The court did not rule that data scraping was legal.

    This appeals court ruled that it was not an abuse of the trial court’s discretion to deny a preliminary injunction against the data scraper while the case goes forward. Now, that might not bode well for LinkedIn when the case is finally adjudicated, and if LinkedIn appeals a final ruling against it, but it is kind of irritating when decisions on preliminary rulings are reported as if they were final rulings.

    I’ll unpack that:

    When you file a suit against someone to get them to stop doing something, it might take a while to get a decision to stop them from doing whatever it is. If your case is really strong, and if what they are doing is really harmful to you, then you can, even before you get to trial, discovery, or any other phase of the litigation file a motion saying, “Hey, court, my case is really strong, and what they are doing is really hurting me. Can you at least order them to stop it while the lawsuit is proceeding?”

    That request is called a motion for a “preliminary injunction” (PI). It is “preliminary” because the court really hasn’t had a chance to dig into all of the facts and arguments. When you ask for a PI, it’s not the same as a final ruling on the case. It is based on a relatively quick look at the facts. Among other things, your case has to be really obviously strong, you have to have a strong likelihood of winning it, the harm has to be significant, and a handful of other factors.

    The trial court has a good deal of discretion in whether or not to grant a preliminary injunction.

    What that means is that if you do not like the court’s ruling on your PI motion, then if you take it to an appeals court, as LinkedIn did here, then the appeals court is (a) not going to be very impressed with you, and (b) is going to apply a standard of decision along the lines of whether the trial court was smoking crack, or whether the decision was reasonably within the wide latitude that a trial court has to grant, or not to grant, your PI.

    For example, if you scroll to the end of the court’s opinion, you’ll notice that one of the judges wrote separately to agree with the others, but to add an extra spanking for LinkedIn appealing the PI decision in the first place. It’s kind of annoying since it was LinkedIn’s PI motion that was denied in the first place, and then they go whining to the appeals court that they didn’t get what they wanted. Oh well, that’s what trials are for, but at the end of the day, LinkedIn did not manage to show that the case was a no-brainer in their favor or that the defendant was doing them a whole lot of harm that LinkedIn couldn’t otherwise address. Additionally, the PI motion was addressed to a narrow range of potential theories against the defendant, and didn’t deal with a variety of other theories on which the defendant may, or may not, ultimately be required to shut down.

    The way that you express facts is protectable as your property. The facts themselves are not. If you look up the time of sunrise tomorrow on some publicly-accessible website, and it says 6:30 AM, that website cannot prevent you from repeating the fact that, yup, the sun is going to come up at 6:30 AM tomorrow.

    What do people use LinkedIn for? Do they use it (a) as a platform to publish selected information about themselves, or do they use it (b) to supply LinkedIn with proprietary data for LinkedIn to monetize? I think if you asked LinkedIn users, you’d get a whole lot more people saying (a) than (b).
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019
  9. pablohc86

    pablohc86 Top Member VIP

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    it's a pleasure to read your comments. really really thanks to take the time to write so complete answers
     

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