The Copyright Office recently introduced changes to the process by which online service providers can designate an agent under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). To qualify for DMCA safe-harbor protections, service providers are required to maintain with the Copyright Office contact information for an agent designated to receive takedown notices. The changes, which go into effect … Continue Reading
As of late there has been a great deal of news and discussion concerning "web scraping." Web scraping is the practice of using computer software to extract information from a website. In short, a wealth of information exists on the Internet and companies of all stripes are interested in collecting it from websites, compiling and combining it, and using it to further their business.
Scraping raises a multitude of legal issues, including issues related to privacy and security intellectual property, and laws concerning unauthorized access to computers and trespass to chattels (in fact, the overlapping issues raised by scraping represent a very good example of what we call "information law"). Many companies attempt to stop scraping of their websites from occurring in the first instance. This can be achieved by implementing technologies such as CAPTCHA (which are becoming ubiquitous) that are intended to ensure that a human is entering the website rather than a computer software program or bot. If technologies like CAPTCHA are evaded by scrapers, some websites might pursue an action under the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the "DMCA"). The DMCA provides for potential statutory penalties and even criminal sanctions for violations of its anti-circumvention provisions. This post explores how the DMCA might be used in this context and looks at some cases addressing whether circumvention of CAPTCHA (and similar protocols) might result in violation of, and liability under, the DMCA.
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