Legal Information

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.”

See the full ruling Genius Media Group Inc vs Google LLC and Lyricfind (19-CV-7279 MKB) or read more coverage on Techcrunch or Lawstreetmedia.


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

Please read our website terms of use till the very end for more information on how Terms of Use apply to Web Scraping.

Levity aside, here is some information from EFF on a recent Ninth Circuit Court ruling.

“[T]aking data using a method prohibited by the applicable terms of use”— i.e., scraping — “when the taking itself generally is permitted, does not violate” the state computer crime laws.

“As EFF puts it, ‘[n]either statute . . . applies to bare violations of a website’s terms of use—such as when a computer user has permission and authorization to access and use the computer or data at issue, but simply accesses or uses the information in a manner the website owner does not like.’”

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.


Read More:
Eric Goldman (a Professor of Law at Santa Clara University School of Law) provides his humanly readable interpretations on the latest legal topics related to scraping on his excellent website at this link

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