Is scraping legal?

ScraperWiki is a Liverpool-based data tools service and community I did some work for in 2010/11 and a winner of the Knight News Challenge 2011. In this post, its CEO Francis Irving looks at the legal issues around screen scraping.

ScraperWiki Data Blog

Lots of people, when they hear about ScraperWiki, ask “is scraping legal? how can you build a business off that?”. Usually to follow up by saying “we do it in our company, but we would never tell anyone”.

This is strange to us, as we have come from a world of good scraping. Taking Government data, and making it easier for people to use for things that benefit all of society. We’re in favour of that kind of scraping.

It’s obviously a spectrum. At the other extreme, the most evil scraping would be to steal content that somebody else sells, and then to republish it at harm to their business. We’re against that kind of scraping.

It’s not scraping itself which is good or bad, or legal or illegal, but the circumstances in which you’re doing it.

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