Is using CSS, Javascript, HTML, or images from other websites on our website illegal because the contents may involve trademark or copyrighted assets?

I am using lot of partial or full content from other websites on my website because my website is about reviewing brands and websites, and commenting on the pro's and con's.

Currently I am using iframe, object, wget, file_get_contents, cURL and javascript to scrape or clone partial or full website content for my personal use.

I also generate revenue from using their content from advertising, SEO, affiliates and banners etc.

Would I get penalized by law enforcement if they found me, because I am scarping and cloning websites without the permission of real website owner?

And if it is illegal then why are there so many legal open source or paid software and applications for cloning of website like httrack, cyotek, webcopy etc?

Wikipedia : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_scraping#Legal_issues

Stackoverflow : https://stackoverflow.com/questions/70697060/website-cloning-is-ethical-and-acceptable

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    You've not mentioned a jurisdiction. Typically, you'd be in violation of copyright laws and perhaps a passing-off offense in jurisdictions like the UK. You'd also be subject to non-legal punitive measures by the genuine website owner, such as having your stolen sites removed from being listed on search engines by take-down requests. And just because there is software that facilitates doing something, doesn't mean it's legal to do, after all Torrent programs can be used to download copyrighted material which could get you in a lot of trouble. Jan 13, 2022 at 16:11
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    Just as a point, this would likely be seen as a civil issue, rather than a criminal one (depending precisely on what you are doing with the cloned website), but just because the police would shrug and say it's not their job to deal with it, doesn't make it legal. Jan 13, 2022 at 16:14
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    There is a limited exemption from copyright law for the purpose of criticism and reviews, which would probably allow you to publish screenshots or short videos and discuss them, if you were only copying a small portion of a website that you were reviewing. But you can't just take people's photographs, artwork, or other copyrighted content or clone whole websites.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 13, 2022 at 18:23
  • @Stuart F Thje available exceptions to copyright are different in different countries. In the US at least, the exceptions are not limited to "criticism and reviews", nor are they so limited in the UK, although the rules are different there. But there is no country AFAIK in which it is likely for one to be able to lawfully "clone whole websites"; on that you are correct. Jan 14, 2022 at 19:33
  • "if it is illegal then why are there so many ... applications for cloning of website like httrack ..." - Lots of devices exist for copying, and they can be used for legitimate copying as well as illicit copying. The fact that a piece of software or a device could be used illegally does not make the thing itself illegal.
    – Brandin
    Jan 18, 2022 at 10:57

1 Answer 1


Both the displayed site (including all text and images) and the html, css, javascript and other code that generates the display are protected by copyright. This is true in pretty much every country. You would not be able to reuse them lawfully without permission, unless an exception to copyright applies. If no exception applies, and you have not obtained permission, this is copyright infringement. In most cases copyright infringement is treated as a tort (a civil matter), not as a crime. This means that law enforcement generally will take no action and have no interest in such a situation.

The copyright owner could sue for infringement, and possibly collect money damages. In the US, statutory damages can be as high as $30,000, or up to $150,000 for "wilful" infringement, or as low as $750 (per work infringed). Or actual damages can be collected instead. In other countries, actual damages plus costs of suit are more likely, but the rule can be different in each country.

The possible exceptions to copyright vary significantly in different countries. In the US the major exception is Fair use. See Is this copyright infringement? Is it fair use? What if I don't make any money off it? and I have a question about copyright. What should I read before I ask it? for more information In general short snippets of code can probably be used under fair use, but substantial parts of the code or the displayed site are less likely to qualify as fair use.

And if it is illegal then why are there so many legal open source or paid software and applications for cloning of website like httrack, cyotek, webcopy etc?

Most of these tools have legitimate uses, including learning how a site is constructed without distributing copied content; and cloning or partial cloning of a site with permission. Even if the tools were mostly used for unlawful copying, that might well not be a high priority for law enforcement, and cross-border law enforcement (which this in many cases would involve) is often much harder for the police and other authorities.

  • There are jurisdictions where software is much harder to patent or to copyright than text or artwork. So individual snippets of the CSS and Javascript may not be covered. The entire look and feel, however, might come under registered design protections.
    – o.m.
    Jan 14, 2022 at 17:30
  • @O.M. It is my understanding that compute source code is automatically protected by copyright in every country that adheres to the[ Berne Copyright Convention](en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berne_Convention) or the related TRIPPS agreement, which is almost every country in the world. In what countries is this not true, as you understand things? Can you name even one such country? Snippets might be too short or unoriginal for protection, of course. Jan 14, 2022 at 19:38
  • The question is how long snippets may be. One cannot take a site and simply switch variable names, but neither can a simple for loop be copyrighted.
    – o.m.
    Jan 15, 2022 at 6:04
  • @O.M. That is quite true, and under US law there is no clear bright line, rather such decisions are made case by case, and the length of the snippet is not the only factor considered. But that does not support your previous statement: "There are jurisdictions where software is much harder to patent or to copyright than text or artwork." Can you name even one such jurisdiction? I rather doubt that there is one, and suspect you are mistaken on this point. Jan 15, 2022 at 15:31
  • Germany has the concept of Threshold of Originality, which a source code file may not meet. A "genuine artist" in the sense of Urheberrecht has more extensive rights than a programmer, e.g. the right to be identified as the author, or a right not to have the work altered (see the lawsuit about changes to the Berlin central railway station, which the architect considered to be defacing his original intent).
    – o.m.
    Jan 15, 2022 at 16:39

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