data scraping, web crawling, CFAA, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, trespass to chattels, computer trespass, copyright, terms of service, EULA, exceeds authorized access, bots, contextual meaning, hacking, copying, screen scraping, web scraping, social media, compilation copyright, Feist, anticommons


In recent years, online platforms have used claims such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) and trespass to curb data scraping, or copying of web content accomplished using robots or web crawlers. However, as the term “data scraping” implies, the content typically copied is data or information that is not protected by intellectual property law, and the means by which the copying occurs is not considered to be hacking. Trespass and the CFAA are both concerned with authorization, but in data scraping cases, these torts are used in such a way that implies that real property norms exist on the Internet, a misleading and harmful analogy.

To correct this imbalance, the CFAA must be interpreted in its native context, that of computers, computer networks, and the Internet, and given contextual meaning. Alternatively, the CFAA should be amended. Because data scraping is fundamentally copying, copyright offers the correct means for litigating data scraping cases. This Note additionally offers proposals for creating enforceable terms of service online and for strengthening copyright to make it applicable to user-based online platforms.