Disclaimer: ScrapeHero does NOT provide legal advice. Please consult your own legal counsel for advice.
This page will provide updated information about the legal issues related to Web Scraping with links to experts in this field and recent court cases. If you have recent information or see any incorrect information on this page, please let us know so that it can be corrected.
Legality of Web Scraping
Legality is totally dependent on the legal jurisdiction i.e. Laws are country and locality specific. Publicly available information gathering or scraping is not illegal, if it were illegal, Google would not exist as a company because they scrape data from every website in the world.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) website has some good articles discussing this topic.
2021: June 3 2021 Ruling – The US Supreme Court – Van Buren v. United States
This case does not directly address web scraping, but it does touch upon the use of Computer Fraud and Abuse Act enacted in 1986 (CFAA) in the cases of webscraping. A good commentary about this case can be read here.
It is a complex case that may not answer all questions related to CFAA but it does seem to narrow down the scope of the CFAA considerably, which should serve as a deterrent to companies that rely on the CFAA to target webscraping.
2020: August 12 Ruling – Eastern District Court of New York
Google, arguably the world’s largest scraping company, had a web scraping case against them dismissed by Judge Margo Brodie.
Google had repeatedly scraped lyrics from Genius to show up in their search results and the Judge dismissed the lawsuit stating
that they “are nothing more than claims seeking to enforce the copyright owners’ exclusive rights to protection from unauthorized reproduction of the lyrics and are therefore preempted by the Copyright Act.”
2018: March 30 Ruling – US District Court
A US District court ruling (Sandvig v Sessions) that talks directly about web scraping states:
scraping plausibly falls within the ambit of the First Amendment.
That plaintiffs wish to scrape data from websites rather than manually record information does not change the analysis. Scraping is merely a technological advance that makes information collection easier; it is not meaningfully different from using a tape recorder instead of taking written notes, or using the panorama function on a smartphone instead of taking a series of photos from different positions.
Legality of Website Terms of Service
Levity aside, here is some information from EFF on a recent Ninth Circuit Court ruling.
2020: March 27 Ruling – US District Court
US District Court in Washington, DC, has ruled that violating a website’s terms of service isn’t a crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
US District Judge John D. Bates in Sandvig v Barr (Civil Action No. 16-1368) said
Criminalizing terms-of-service violations risks turning each website into its own criminal jurisdiction and each webmaster into his own legislature. Such an arrangement, wherein each website’s terms of service “is a law unto itself“, would raise serious problems.
Full text of the ruling is available here.