I am prototyping a chrome extension that adds functionality to eCommerce sites. It injects HTML/JS/CSS into the page and adds UI elements that when clicked perform some sort of action.

i.e. Adding a button to add an item to a cart with a preconfigured setup (buy online pick up in store for a certain store in a certain size).

This application both scrapes and modifies the site (with no breaking behavior), but I am told in might infringe on copyright laws. I'm thinking that due to it being a chrome extension and the user enabling it themselves/taking action and accepting agreements we can claim fair use.

I am also wondering how this plays with something like Targets TOS. https://www.target.com/c/terms-conditions/-/N-4sr7l

  • I'm not clear on how this would create a copyright issue. What are you copying? – bdb484 Nov 15 '18 at 18:39
  • @bdb484 I'm thinking that it might apply due to us re-using styles/pictures/names of items in the elements we inject. If they also have their site copyrighted and we augment only a piece of it are we copying at that point? – kaufmann42 Nov 15 '18 at 18:46
  • On the first part, I could see how copyright might be implicated. On the second, I don't see how that behavior -- by itself -- would be a copyright issue. I guess it depends on what you mean by "augment," but if you augmented just one page of a physical catalog, I can't see how that could be considered copying. Same goes for a website. – bdb484 Nov 15 '18 at 18:49
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The main problem with this is that scraping and modifying something creates a derivative work, and US copyright law, which very likely applies, lists creating derivative works as one of the things only the copyright holder can do without a license. As you notice, the Target TOS explicitly forbids modification of their pages.

The fact that it's a Chrome extension, and therefore under the control of the user, is unlikely to protect you. You are making something whose function involves an unlawful act, and there's a long line of successful lawsuits against people with such products.

You need to find a lawyer knowledgeable in copyright law, and I'd recommend doing it before you put too much work into the extension. Be prepared to be told that you can't do what you're doing legally, because what you're proposing is probably against the law.

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    Does scraping really "create a derivative work"? My experience suggests that it would be more like copying individual facts from a page, rather than copying anything that was "authored" in the copyright sense. – bdb484 Nov 16 '18 at 0:49

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