[mythtv-users] Free US/Canada Listings

R. G. Newbury newbury at mandamus.org
Mon Sep 10 18:26:16 UTC 2007

David Segall davidsegall.net wrote:
> R. G. Newbury wrote:
>> Screen scraping a website for TV schedule listings data enters a 
>> decidedly grey area in North America. The actual data may not be 
>> copyrightable, but the presentation by whoever, is. It may be presented 
>> in ways which use technological measures to protect the copyright in the 
>> presentation (yeah, well that would be the argument!). An individual 
>> user may fit within the fair use exemption, or even the more limited 
>> Canadian fair dealing limitation. But the DCMA makes the scraper writer 
>> a criminal.
> So why hasn't Google been prosecuted?

Probably because Google can claim to fit within the 'research' exemption 
  in respect of its copying for indexing and archival purposes, it does 
not circumvent technological measures in order to do so, and in fact, 
acts in a civilized manner by having its spiders comply with any 
non-index directives in robots.txt, and finally, it can hire lawyers in 
football squad sized groups. And in addition, it any large organization 
decided to try to hit on google, google could effectively ensure that 
that corporation ceases to exist within google's searches.

>> I do not take the position that screen scrapers are per se illegal.
> Then how do justify saying that the "DCMA makes the scraper writer a criminal"?.

A scraper writer who publishes his code, so that others may circumvent a 
  technological measure is clearly a criminal under the DCMA  see 17USC 
s.1201 and 1204.  (try thomas.loc.gov). There is a limited area in which 
a screen scraper may be legal. It must be written to scrape pure data, 
which data is not protected by any technological measure, and which data 
is not copyrightable. Remember that pure data, such as telephone 
directory listins, or tv schedule listings is not copyrightable. TV show 
descriptions may be copyrightable text, however, depending on whether 
the party being scraped wrote that text, or is merely transmitting it. 
So the line is fine and also implicates questions of fair use copying. 
If it is scraped for personal use, then it can be a fair use copying. It 
all depends....

>> I do not want Myth to be tarred by 
>> the FUD which the IP 'owners' could throw. And the existence of SD as a 
>> legal allowed structure for obtaining tv listings data removes the 
>> 'need' for the use of scrapers in North America. So there is no *need* 
>> for scrapers to be discussed here. So lets not give them an opening. 

> For those that risk their life and liberty in a repressive society "lets not give them an opening"
 > is an understandable reaction. In the United States, where the worst 
the list maintainers face is
 > a letter from some corporate lawyers demanding that they stop,
 >  I think self-censorship is inexcusable.

Well, the list maintainers live and work in the US. Their entire 
livelihoods and assets could be affected by someone who decides not to 
exercise the courtesy of "self-censoring" themselves by not posting ON 
THIS LIST. I do not ask, and I do not think the devs ask (or demand) 
that anyone not post about scrapers on lists which deal with scraping. 
It is not a core requirement of myth, and is better discussed on lists 
where the users are conversant with the technology.

And the 'worst' is far more damaging than a letter from someone. They 
could effectively be bankrupted by the need to defend themselves from a 
groundless complaint.

If you wish to read some truly horrifying reports on over-zealous use of 
copyright law to chill first amendment rights and to destroy people, go 
read about some of the Church of Scientology's cases against those it 
considers enemies.


More information about the mythtv-users mailing list