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Can there be any legal problem with scraping social media sites (like Instagram and Facebook) for pictures without registering a user or using the sites' APIs?

Could sites sue me for copyright violations or anything else even though the content I'm scraping belongs to their users?

  • It doesn't belong to you and you haven't got a license or permission to take or have or use it. What law-related word do you think this describes? – Nij Jan 9 '17 at 10:09
  • Well, user pictures don't belong to the social media since they were created by users. And since the users don't post them as private I don't see what law prevents me from scraping them and analizing them. – Isaac Dorfman Jan 9 '17 at 10:14
  • Ownership and copyright are not the same thing, and you have neither. Nor do you have permission to access the website. – Nij Jan 9 '17 at 10:17
  • If someone takes some instagram photos and uses them in his websites from what I know there can be no legal claim against him. If that's the case then why is scraping any different? – Isaac Dorfman Jan 9 '17 at 10:20
  • What you appear to know is either not true at all, or applies only for a limited set of photos/users. You cannot unilaterally take a copy of a work and use it for yourself. That's the entire foundation of how copyright works. – Nij Jan 9 '17 at 10:24
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The copyright in photos posted on social media belongs to the copyright holder (usually the photographer who may or may not be the user).

This leaves two possibilities: the user has posted it with the permission of the copyright holder (as is required by the social media ToS) or they haven't. Notwithstanding, that is a matter between the copyright holder, the user and the social media site. You, as an unrelated third party, are entitled to assume that it is there legally.

To reuse it you either need the permission of the copyright holder or use it in accordance with the license they granted to the social media site and that was in turn granted to you (both detailed in the ToS).

I don't even need to read the ToS to know:

  1. You don't have the copyright holder's permission
  2. You are not within the ToS

Therefore, what you are doing is a 100% lay-down misere of copyright violation and I would be more than happy to run the case on a "no win no fee" basis after I make sure you have enough assets to cover my costs.

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