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Is web scraping legal ?

You must know why some web scraping services are legal and some are illegal! Know all the legal factors of Web Scraping to avoid any inconvenience
Is web scraping legal

Introduction

Hope the readers must have gone through my previous tutorial article about web scrapping videos.  Working with a ‘Web scraping’ team is a quite exciting program in which the developers got all the opportunities that they are looking for. At the time of being with the Web Scrapping team, you must have several questions in your mind because of the current web crime or legal void criteria. Some questions may be – ‘is web scraping legal or not?’ Do all sites allow web scraping access or some allow web scraping programs? 

Is web scraping legal? Yes, unless you get it used dishonorably. The users can use web scraping for the good stuff or for bad stuff as per their profession or role in the industry. Sometimes, cyber-criminals use web scrapping in the wrong way.

In order to answer the above questions, we need to consider some reputed sites like Amazon, Facebook, and Uber, etc. Here, the reporter needs to extract a the huge volume of data with the help of Web Scrapping as manually collecting data could be a time-wasting act as well as a poor ROI job.

In case you wish to edit the huge volume of web page data, the ‘web scraping’ could help you out certainly within few minutes.

When the web scraping is legal?

Before going to judge the legal or illegal factor of Web Scraping, let’s have some basic idea about input, processing, and output concepts that could help the readers well about the reality of Web Scraping.

Different formats of output

Web Scraping is the application of robotically extracting information and specific information from websites through relevant software programs or scripts. And another advantage is that the gathered information can be stored indifferent formats such as Excel, comma-separated value (CSV), SQL, and HTML, etc.

Web Scraping Programming languages

With the use of various web scraping programmings tools such as Python, C#.Net and other languages, the task of web scraping could be conducted properly. If we comparison C# and Python, Python is the best choice for beginners to work with Web Scraping programming because of its enough library, easier utility, and dynamically typed, etc. Among all libraries of Python, Scrapy and Beautiful Soup is such a prominent library that helps in developing web scraping programming.

Major Types of web scrapping by HTML AGILITY PACK (HAP)

Purposes of Web Scrapping 

Web Scraping is mostly used for different purposes in corporate sectors including the following.

  • Cutthroat Analysis
  • Contact details extractions
  • Lead generation
  • Brand observing
  • Research and Development
  • Social Media Scrapping
  • Extracting financial information etc.

It’s time to Judge

Now, let’s get back to the beginning point from where we began the topic of whether it is legal to perform Web Scraping or not? Nevertheless, making Web Scraping is practically not any type of illegal procedure but the verdict is based on further different factors – For what purpose do you utilize the extracted information? Or, are you breaking the legal criteria mentioned in the ‘Terms & Conditions? etc. 

Case study

Suppose one company allows someone to enter their premises through Main Gate as usual, But the person can cross over the Boundary Wall. So, will the company permits the person to enter its boundary? 

But a person can take some photo of the company premises which is viewed from outside. Similarly, the data shown by most of the business websites are usually accessible to the audiences or viewers as it is legal to store the genuine displayed data in your system for a specific use, but it’s strictly prohibited to display the same data on your website and copyright rule will ban your website. Here it becomes illegal to use duplicate data of other websites in your website.

On the other hand, the law of Web Scraping is not completely see-through but some regulations are still there in which you can get punished for conducting unauthorized/illegal web scraping. 

Some of the regulations are listed below:

  • Breach of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act)
  • Copyright violation
  • Breach of Contract
  • Trespassing
  • Breach of the CFAA (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act)

Some live case studies on Legal issues

Between ‘LinkedIn and HiQ’

HiQ is a data analysis company that faces a legal dispute allegation raised by LinkedIn, a reputed social media site. The LinkedIn officials sent an official letter to HiQ with warning it not to scrap the LinkedIn site. 

But the most interesting dilemma here is LinkedIn found a critical legal counter-defense from HiQ as anyone can access the data of LinkedIn whoever visits it. Hence, there shouldn’t be any legal issues in web scraping of the publicly obtainable data. Here, the court has made a final decision on the support of web scraping of publicly accessible data. Anyone can access information from any public information from any website, but can’t use its website as an asset. Hence, the decision was not praiseworthy from LinkedIn.

Between Facebook and Power Ventures

Similarly, the legal dispute between Facebook and Power Ventures is a considerable case of web scrapping. Power Ventures Inc has gathered huge user data from Facebook and started using it on their website. Facebook alleged that power ventures had dishonored the CFAA (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act), and the CCCDFA (California Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act). This company has also violated the CAN-SPAM Act by extracting the user information through the identity of Facebook. But, Power Ventures had replied back that the claim was not enough valid to be considered. Since the users access their own information on Facebook through the Power Ventures platform. But, the decision of the court was in favor of Facebook.

How to avoid legal disputes!

Through the following strategies, you can overcome legal disputes.

  1. Put an interval of approx 13-15 seconds in between your requests.
  2. Don’t utilize the scraped information for commercial intention without the approval of the original owner of the website. You may build up some unique type of content by completely modifying the scrapped content.
  3. Always, you must go through the Terms and Conditions of Service before scrapping the web page information.
  4. Especially, from restricted sites, you need to access information with their proper approval.

Conclusion

Web data scraping and web crawling aren’t illegal activities if they are used ethically for the purpose of web design and development. Using duplicate data of other’s websites or accessing unauthorized information or accessing the private information of social media users is a complete legal violation. Know the key factors of web scraping here.

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Anjan kant

Outstanding journey in Microsoft Technologies (ASP.Net, C#, SQL Programming, WPF, Silverlight, WCF etc.), client side technologies AngularJS, KnockoutJS, Javascript, Ajax Calls, Json and Hybrid apps etc. I love to devote free time in writing, blogging, social networking and adventurous life

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