Web scraping for me, but not for thee

Web scraping is a legal domain riddled with hypocrisy. Companies like Meta and Microsoft prohibit web scraping on their own platforms while engaging in it themselves on other companies’ properties. Web scraping is about accessing data, and while some data is protected by copyright or other intellectual property rights, most of the data on the internet is not easily protectable. Social media companies, for example, aggressively pursue web-scraping litigation to protect user-generated content that technically belongs to their users. The primary legal theory used to stop scrapers has shifted from trespass to chattels to breach of contract claims. This allows companies to assert property rights and define their own rules for data use through terms of use agreements. The breach-of-contract-as-property legal regime does not require intellectual honesty or consistency and allows companies to be hypocritical in their stances on web scraping. Microsoft and Meta are among the companies that take hypocritical stances on web scraping, but this is what smart legal teams do when courts allow it. The courts bear responsibility for enabling this hypocrisy and need to reconsider their decisions. However, resolving this issue is challenging due to the complexities of state laws and the current state of copyright preemption. Despite the current legal regime, there will likely be ongoing conflicts and developments


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