As an example, yelp and craigslist both have clauses in their terms of service that attempt to scare you away from trying to crawl/scrape their pages.

Would they be able to legally prevent you from simply crawling this data? What if you don't redisplay their content? What if you use it to provide relevant links back their site?

  • It's been a long time since I've read the copyright ACT, but I would assume that the protections to their information fall under these federal laws. Commented May 1, 2014 at 23:09
  • I have very little understanding of these issues, but wouldn't copyright only apply to reproduction or distribution? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – philshem
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 9:59

1 Answer 1


IANAL, TINLA. If you really need to know, get a lawyer.

In the United States, adult human beings are presumed competent to enter into contracts while protecting their own interests. Ergo, contracts can say almost anything you can imagine and the law will enforce them. Terms of Service agreements are contracts. Ergo...

(There are certain specific limitations to the power of contract. If you want to know more, talk to a lawyer.)

Re copyright: in the United States, compilations of facts are not copyrightable (Feist v Rural Telephone Service) because they do not meet copyright's standard for originality/creativity. So base facts about a restaurant... not covered by copyright. Reviews, however, likely pass the originality test, so scraping them has copyright-infringement implications.

  • I agree that it would make sense that yelp can copyright reviews. But what if you wanted to produce an analytics site that predicted the average review rating of a region (using factors such as weather, time of day, season, etc.). In this (completely random) example, you're not utilizing the content directly, but forming a compilation of facts. As another example, what if you are trying to open a restaurant, and you want to explore untapped markets by scraping data from yelp. You are compiling facts based on the data, but not reproducing it for others to see. Commented May 2, 2014 at 19:41
  • Definitely a gray area. :) Talk to a lawyer.
    – D.Salo
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 19:59
  • Can scraping reviews without publishing anything really violate copyright law?
    – philshem
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 14:38
  • Sure. Any copy of copyrighted intellectual property might be a violation.
    – D.Salo
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 21:48

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