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Let me start with specifying that I'm not asking about the act of web scraping itself, neither the use of the data obtained through that method.

What I'm asking exactly in simple terms:

Can I be sued for developing a web scraper that targets a specific site and publishing its source code online?

EDIT: About the duplicate suggestion - while answers there were helpful, I find the question too general for my case...

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When the question is "Can I be sued for..." there can't ever be a really useful answer, because anyone can be sued for just about anything. The suit may be tossed as pointless early in the process, but it can be filed.

That said, could there be a valid ground of suit against a developer for creating a scraper? Possibly.

Scraping a site could be against the site's TOS. It could be largely a way of committing copyright infringement. It could be unlawful in some other way. For most sites, scraping is not unlawful. Google does it all the time.

If there is no legitimate use for the scraper, or very nearly none, so that any user is likely to be acting maliciously and unlawfully, and if the developer knows this, or any reasonable developer should know this, then the developer could possibly be found liable for the illegitimate actions of those who use the scarper.

If there is a legit use for the scraper, or the developer would plausibly think that there is, then such development is not illegal, and a successful suit against the developer is unlikely.

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  • Does site's TOS has specifically mention scraping to make it illegal or can it be not allowed "by default" in some jurisdictions? Also is rule banning scraping in TOS always binding or does that depend on jurisdiction? – zduny Jan 18 '19 at 22:31
  • @mrpyo Under DMCA (US), I think a website owner would have a strong case that absent a release from the owner, the reproduction of their code beyond its obviously intended use (i.e. loading and interpretation by a user's browser) is covered by normal copyright law and is thus illegal. – IllusiveBrian Jan 19 '19 at 3:59
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    @IllusiveBrian I think there was a misunderstanding - part "...and publishing its source code online" was referring to the scraper's source code, not a scrapped site. – zduny Jan 19 '19 at 10:52
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No fear. It's a supportive, non-critical environment here.

  1. Developing code which functions as a web scraper is not unlawful. It has a lawful use - you could scrape websites that you do have permission to crawl.

  2. Running the code against a site may be in breach of the terms and conditions of use of the website. That doesn't make the writing of the code unlawful.

  3. If the code only has a single purpose that it can be used for, which is unlawful, you've got a problem. That's rare.

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  • I think the question asked about publishing the code for the scraper that the OP had developed, not code taken from the site. – David Siegel Jan 19 '19 at 1:45
  • Sorry, I missed that. Edited response – lellis Jan 19 '19 at 3:08

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