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So recently I came about an article about web scraping, and it said how most of the time scraping is illegal. I did not know this in past, and did not know the website I was working on was using a script to gather information from another website. Of course I don't work for this business anymore but I did let my boss know. My concern is, what if my company gets caught, am I liable? I am scared since I did use the file that had the actual code-block that did the web scraping. I did not write this code, but I did use the results that it extracted. However, at the time I did not know this was bad, or knew even what the process was of getting the information that I was using. Should I be concerned?

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    This question is a better match for Law (more expertise over there I guess) – user4293 Oct 28 '15 at 8:03
  • web scraping is often the last resort technics used when the data are not available in a usable format and the source is not willing to make it available. I think the discussion belong here. – magdmartin Nov 7 '15 at 16:16
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Firstly, the information provided in my answers is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice for individual situations and should not be relied on in taking legal action of any kind. Merely reading my answers does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you believe you may have a claim or defense based on something you read in my answers, you should seek independent legal advice from the lawyer of your choice.

The case of copyright infringement can be serious. An infringer is ALWAYS liable to the copyright owner for the infringement (it is a personal tort action). There is a separate question of whether the infringer's employer will step in and defend and indemnify the employee for the employee's infringement.

So, the employee could be civilly liable, but she or he could face criminal liability as well for knowingly infringing a copyright. The supervisor telling the employee to do it could create criminal and civil liability for the employer in addition to, not in place of, the liability of the employee.

All of this does not answer whether any copyright holder is likely to pursue their rights.

  • You forgot the part where I did not know the company had a script that was violating the terms of another website at the time I was working there. – user2473033 Oct 28 '15 at 4:25
  • no, i didn't forget that. You either were infringing the copyright through your actions or you were not. If your company was doing bad things and you never used the data in any way, you were not infringing the copyright of the website. That is a separate question. I read your OP as indicating that you had personally used the data. Ignorance is not a defense. – Shawn Mehan Oct 28 '15 at 4:29
  • Doesn't this overlook that the company is liable, not the individual employees (especially since the employee did not initiate the behavior/write the software)? This may depend on country. – user4293 Oct 28 '15 at 8:02
  • It does not overlook that the company is also liable. – Shawn Mehan Oct 28 '15 at 14:56
  • Im pretty sure our data entry employee will not get in trouble just because he worked with products who had prices that where derived through some value which was illegally obtained....or will he? Seems like we could all be be breaking the law now, any software we use could have illegal ties without us knowing. – user2473033 Oct 28 '15 at 15:21
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I would have to disagree with the other answer. It has got to do with a lot more than that. Did your employer at the time know his website was scraping? If so, you are in no trouble at all. Writing code that scrapes a website is not illegal, executing them is. If your employer knew this is how his website was programmed, and he agreed with it, he/the company is responsible upon hosting the script and executing the script. Because it's (most likely) prohibited in the TOS of the scraped site. However I do think that if your employer did not know the website was functioning because of the scraping script, the story might be slightly different. But even then, you did not write that code, had no knowledge that the code existed and it was not your responsibility.

  • My boss had no idea either, he doesn't know what any web development stuff is, let alone how web scraping works. He knew prices where being draw from another site, but just like me never thought it would be illegal. I always thought that they where paying for a service to the that info, or the website they where getting it from had no restrictions. I just figured about this whole web scraping stuff after reading an article about some companies going to court over it. I told one of the coworkers there about it, and I am going to tell my boss too. – user2473033 Oct 28 '15 at 16:58
  • Still, don't think you are in any trouble. In the past this would have been more serious, nowadays there are better rules in place for violating website's TOS (to protect the users). It won't count as CFAA as fast as in the past, unless you are using special techniques like deceive IP-blocks etc. Probably if the website being scraped notices it, they probably send a cease and decist letter before taking legal steps. I'm talking about scraping non-copyrighted work (facts and numbers are not copyrighted) and I'm not 100% sure about it, but I read quite a few things about it. – vincent kleine Oct 28 '15 at 17:10

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