The act of scraping data refers to the process of collecting content that appears on websites, even without the owner’s consent, using algorithms designed to identify information on websites by categories defined in advance.
Collection is conducted using software that collects and sorts through large quantities of data from public online sources. These tools are used to index and present search results by search engines, by price comparison sites, and many more, whether for commercial, academic, or journalistic use.
The Ninth Circuit decision was specifically concerned with the interpretation of a US computer law, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), enacted in 1986. The court examined whether the scraping conducted by hiQ from the public profiles of LinkedIn users constituted an act of hacking that violated the CFAA.
In this context, it seems the court distinguished between publically available information and information protected by passwords or other barriers by the websites where scraping was performed. This distinction was the basis for the difference is this ruling than in previous ones, as the password-protected areas were entered through technological means or by expanding the access granted by the password holder, and the access was to public information that under copyright law may possibly not be owned by LinkedIn at all.
The issue of scraping raises complex questions of copyrights as well, as it is not always clear who the owner of the content is, especially if the service offered by the website is a platform service and users are provided with the possibility of uploading content and commenting. Thus, when a website is a platform, the ownership of the platform, the platform’s look and feel, the organization of the data, the display mechanism, and the manner of public accessibility are owned by the platform.
In this matter, it seems the court favors freedom of competition and information, and has determined the act of scraping data in this case to be lawful.