Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

Court forbids ‘scraping’ of American Airlines web site

Out-Law News | 14 Mar 2003 | 12:00 am | 1 min. read

American Airlines has won a temporary injunction against Farechaser Inc, the company behind software of a type known as a 'screen-scraper', which mines flight information from the AA.com web site and the sites of other airlines.

Farechase licenses its software to travel agents and others. The software obtains and copies AA's flight schedules, seat availability and fare content from AA.com – all without consent from the airline.

AA argued before a Texas district court that its terms and conditions at AA.com forbid the copying and use of the site's information for commercial purposes. Further, the Texas Penal Code states creates an offence if a person knowingly accesses a computer, computer network, or computer system without the effective consent of the owner.

Legal action began when Farechase ignored AA's demands to "cease and desist the unauthorised scraping of AA.com, as well as the distribution of its software with the data retriever that is designed specifically to access and scrape AA.com".

Scraping has been addressed before by US and European courts, being dealt with as deep linking and also, in Europe, a breach of database regulations. See the links below for relevant cases.

The court imposed a temporary injunction (known as an interim interdict in Scotland) against Farechase, pending a full trial which is scheduled to begin 7th July 2003. The terms of the court order forbid Farechase from, among other things, accessing, using or scraping AA.com, or providing software which does so, without AA's consent.

A user of Slashdot.org, commenting anonymously on the case, noted, "In a stunning display of hypocrisy, Farechase.com's own terms and conditions prohibit users from doing to them exactly what they are doing to AA.com."

Sure enough, the Farechase.com conditions state: "You agree that you will not use any robot, spider, other automated device ("Automated Device") to access or use the Site in any way. All use of Automated Devices is strictly prohibited."

The temporary injunction can be downloaded as a 5-page PDF from the web site of the Electronic Frontier Foundation at:
www.eff.org/Cases/AA_v_Farechase/20030310_prelim_inj.pdf