To Scrape or Not to Scrape: The Potential Legal Implications of Using Web Scraping for Market Research

Through the use of automated processes performed by software, a web scraper visits a website and attempts to gather relevant data or information that may be provided on the site, such as consumer product reviews or social media profile data. That information may be readily accessible through a simple Google search, or it may require access through a click-through terms-of-service agreement or a firewall. Some investment advisers interested in web scraping conduct that activity in-house, while others may look to outside vendors to accumulate the information. The law regarding web scraping, however, is still developing and implicates a large number of statutory regimes and areas of common law. For example, web-scraping activity may implicate federal statutes, such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Digital Millennium Copyright Act and insider trading laws; state blue sky laws; privacy laws; and common law claims, such as breach of contract, fraud and trespass to chattels. In a guest article, Akin Gump attorneys Douglas A. Rappaport, Peter I. Altman and Kelly Handschumacher provide an overview of the evolving area of web-scraping law and practical guidance to investment advisers considering web scraping. For commentary from other Akin Gump partners, see “What Fund Managers Need to Know About the Legislative Response to #MeToo” (May 3, 2018); and “Beyond the Master-Feeder: Managing Liquidity Demands in More Flexible Fund Structures” (May 25, 2017).

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