Use of meta search engine for data scraping infringes database right

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has given its first decision on whether the scraping of data from websites infringes the database rights in the target websites. The case involved a meta search engine (one that uses search engines provided by other websites to retrieve results) and the CJEU decided that its operator infringed database right where it: provided a search form that replicated the functionality of the search form on the target website; enabled a search of the entire database in the target website; and presented the results of the user’s search in an equivalent way to the target website. The reasoning of the case is unusually fact specific but it suggests that the CJEU will favour a wide interpretation of the database reutilisation right and the equivalent copyright making available right.

The decision is a warning to those who operate unlicensed website scraping services: enabling the search of the entirety of third-party website databases could infringe database right, even if only a single grouping of data is returned in response to a user query.

The claimant, Wegener, operates a classified car ads website (www.autotrack.nl) that allows targeted searching for vehicles on the basis of various criteria. The defendant, Innoweb, provides a meta search engine dedicated to car sales (www.gaspedaal.nl), which, through a single query, carries out simultaneous searches of ads on third-party sites, including on AutoTrack. GasPedaal provides various criteria for users to search for cars against and those queries are ‘translated’ into the format required for the AutoTrack search engine…

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