Thursday, July 8, 2004

Federal U.S. Court Rules in Favor of Fact Extraction from Web Sites

Mondaq covers a ruling from a Federal U.S. court in Florida on the Nautical Solutions Marketing, Inc., v. Boats.com case in favor of the defendent NSM. NSM was mining data from yacht listings on the Boats.com site Yachtworld.com, storing in its own database and then presenting in their own unique listing formats. Key to the decision was the fact that the listings being scraped by NSM were posted by the yacht owners and therefore not the unique creation of Boats.com, as well as the fact that the scraping visit was instantaneous and did not harm the performance of the Yachtworld.com site in any significant way, unlike some mining operations that have been known to suck off not just data but server performance. So the concept of fair use of facts is alive and well in the courts, if not in the minds and hearts of many database providers who are stuggling to define lines of use and utility in the era of vContent. One wonders where the lines will be drawn for providers of high-performance services such as exchange ticker feeds in light of this ruling: does a securities exchange or a content vendor have the right to challenge content redistribution of stock quotes and other trading data provided by the financial institutions seeking a trade? It will be interesting to see where upcoming cases and rulings lead the core of several professionally-oriented content services that have presumed that the databasing of other people's facts was a good business.
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