16 March 2009

Is Ryanair Losing Screen Scrape War?

I have to say I am conflicted on this one.

The issue of the ability of a screen scraper to "steal, misuse, misappropriate or manipulate" material off the web pages of an airline attacks one of the fundamental issues of Intellectual Property. Is the data you have yours or not? At the heart of this are two conflicting concepts.

On the open access doctrine sits the - "If you put it out, there it's public" rights.
However if you present the conditions for use of the data then the right to refuse to sell rule comes to play - yes the "no shoes, no shirt, no service" rule. As long as you don't discriminate - this has been a fundamental right of every seller.

At this stage I think that Ryanair and BA (who has similar policy) clearly state the right to use rules on their websites (as does Expedia and many others) have right in their corner. However once the booking has been accepted then the case gets murky. So if someone used subterfuge to get the booking done illegally - then the airline has the right to refuse flight but only if the consumer knowingly deployed some underhanded way of getting the booking.

This little detail seems to have been lost in the Multicom pronouncements that FR is going to lose the battle.

Since at the moment FR has said that it is not allowing ANYONE to screen scrape it means that ALL bookings are the fruit of a poison vine action. This is a fundemental legal concept.

Don't you just love the law!


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