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Is Web Scraping Legal?

When it comes to legality, web scraping is a complex subject but generally, web scraping is perfectly legal in most of the world as long as these criteria are met:

  • The scraped data is publically available OR belongs to the user.
    Data behind login is not publically available thus for legal scraping has to belong to the user. An example of such a case would be, scraping your order history from Amazon.
  • The data is not protected by copyright.
    Copyright applies to all forms of creative work, including text, images, music, and software. If the data is protected by copyright, you need to get permission from the copyright holder before scraping it.
  • The scraping process does not cause damage to the website being scraped.
    All connections impose some costs for the server. If the plaintiff can prove that the scraping process caused damage (e.g. overload, significant bandwidth fees etc.) to the website, the plaintiff can sue the scraper for damages.

Additionally, while not directly related to web scraping, these criteria can play a role in unlawful data use:

  • The scraped data is personally identifiable information (PII)
    This varies by country (see laws like GDPR in EU) and it has more to do with data use than data collection. So, while scraping itself is not directly illegal, using and storing the collected data that contains personal information requires valid justification like research. Using this data for lead generation or spam would not be legal.
    Note that PII does not apply for public professional data like business info or public figures.
  • The scraped data is being used for malicious purposes.
    This is a very broad category and it can include things like fraud, identity theft, and spamming. If the scraped data is being used for malicious purposes, it can be considered illegal.

These are general guidelines and they may not apply to all countries. For specific country laws, popular law cases related to web scraping and other details see the country-specific pages below:

Note that this is not a direct legal advice but a general overview of the legal situation in the respective countries. Please consult a lawyer in your country for specific legal advice.