The practice of content scraping is as shady and underhanded as the name implies. One person or entity scrapes content from a legitimate website and uses it on their website without permission. It can be done manually, but the more common approach is to use sophisticated software or programming to automate the process and accomplish more content scraping in less time.
Aside from being a sign of dishonesty and laziness, content scraping is illegal. As we discussed in Part 1 of this post, the finer points of what constitutes content scraping are being defined by the courts as we speak, but there are definite legal repercussions.
First, expect to receive a “cease and desist” letter from the content owner if you’re caught. A takedown notice may be sent to your Internet service provider (ISP) pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. § 512(c). Your ISP is required by law to remove or disable access to all infringing pages on your websites. If you or your ISP fail to comply with the DMCA, you are liable for civil damages and penalties.
Under U.S. copyright law, 17 U.S.C. § 504, the copyright infringement results in statutory damages of between $750 and $30,000 per work, at the discretion of the court, and damages of up to $150,000 per work for willful infringement. If you continue to engage in copyright infringement after receiving a cease and desist letter, your actions will be evidence of “willful infringement.”
Using a third-party content provider doesn’t absolve you of responsibility. In fact, copyright law assumes joint and several liability for infringement, so you could pay dearly for someone else’s actions. In a best-case scenario, you’ll be wasting money on content that will have to be removed. If you use a third-party content provider, make sure your contract clearly states that content scraping violates the terms of your agreement and will not be tolerated.
If you publish original content, there are tools you can use and steps you can take to avoid becoming the victim of content scraping.
If your content is scraped, determine how serious the situation is. Does it involve one page or your entire website? You may find that you’re better off picking your battles.
When you feel it’s time to protect your content, let your attorney draw up and send a DMCA takedown notice or a formal “cease and desist” letter. You can find templates online, but these notifications tend to have more of an impact when they come from an attorney. Your attorney will also save you time and aggravation by following up and serving as the point of contact should the content scraper ignore your requests.
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