Recent years have seen the growth of online data sources, such as online databases, ecommerce catalogs, and social networking sites, and associated services and applications. This growth has been accompanied by a corresponding increase in the sophistication of technologies that automate access and retrieval of online data, a practice commonly referred to as “scraping.”
The Snap-On Bus. Solutions, Inc. v. O’Neil & Assoc., Inc. case,1 in which the plaintiff alleged a variety of claims that are typical in a scraping case, presents a timely opportunity to review the developing body of case law relating to automated access of third-party systems, including scraping and the use of third-party content. The plaintiff, Snap-On Business Solutions (Snap-On), survived a summary judgment motion and was allowed to proceed to trial on a variety of claims it brought against O’Neil & Associates (O’Neil) in the Northern District of Ohio, in connection with O’Neil’s use of a scraping tool to access and replicate data from an online database built and hosted by Snap-On.
Snap-On initially created the searchable online database at issue for its client Mitsubishi, using data and images provided by Mitsubishi. Mitsubishi later decided to move the database to another service provider (O’Neil), but Snap-On refused to provide the database to Mitsubishi unless Mitsubishi paid an additional fee. Mitsubishi and O’Neil agreed that O’Neil would retrieve the data from Snap-On’s database through the use of O’Neil’s “scraper tool.” O’Neil proceeded to scrape the data from the Snap-On database, simulating logins by Mitsubishi personnel using access credentials supplied by Mitsubishi. After experiencing performance issues with its service, Snap-On became aware of the scraping activity and filed suit.
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