Is Data Scraping Legal?
Data scraping refers to the ability of a web browser to imitate actions that users would be able to perform on the original website. But is this legal? Read our guide to find out.
As technology continues to grow, the ability to extract data for an individual’s own purpose becomes more likely. The action of using a software program to copy or extract data from an original website to use it for another purpose is becoming increasingly popular. This is data scraping. Whilst data scraping provides great commercial benefits to a company but is data scraping legal. This guide will inform you what data scraping is, if it is legal and what are the risks of data scraping.
What is Data Scraping?
Data scraping refers to data that is extracted from an original website to be generated through another program. Put simply, this means that valuable information from a website can be extracted to be used for another purpose. Data scraping can be used for several purposes, such as:
- Research for web content
- Competitive prices comparison
- Product data information from e-commerce websites
In Australia, data scraping is legal but there are certain legislations and legally enforceable terms and conditions of a website that will be breached.
What are the Legal Risks of Data Scraping?
In essence, data scraping is legal. The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) prevents data scraping to occur in specific circumstances. As the Australian copyright law protects an individual’s original work, data scraping of works such as novels, poetry, plays, paintings, portraits and songs will be a breach of the copyright law. Generally, a breach of copyright laws will result in a series of court trials and a penalty. But the Copyright Act does not protect works that are not original. Therefore, if there are several original works from other sources on a website, this is not original work.
Generally, data is not original due to its fact-based nature. When data is a representation of a fact it is not original work. For example, a website content shows the total number of films released in each year. On the other hand, it is original when an individual organises data in a certain way. Some examples include accounting forms or sequences of numbers for a certain game. This would mean that if any data scraping from this website will result in legal action.
Terms and Conditions of a Website
Clickwrap agreements deter consumers from potentially data scraping. Before a user is able to access a website’s contents, you must first manually tick individual agreement terms and conditions. One of these terms and conditions will include agreeing to not take valuable information from the website. When an individual agrees to the terms and conditions, this breach can be legally enforced.
Thus, it is important for content owners to implement a Website Terms and Conditions of Use to protect their original work.
What Legal Action can be Taken if Data Scraping Occurs?
So, data scraping has occurred on your website and you believe that your work is original. This means that the individual who has engaged in data scraping has breached both legislation and the website terms and conditions. Under these circumstances, you can issue a cease and desist letter to stop the user from infringing on your rights. Further, you can consult an intellectual property lawyer to discuss how you can rectify the breach in terms and conditions.
In essence, data scraping is considered highly illegal but has not been declared by legislation as illegal unless the website displays original works. It is crucial to be aware of the risks that are involved in data scraping and how your data can be protected.
Cecilia is a final year law student completing her Practical Legal Training at Lawpath. She has an avid interest in intellectual property.