Regarding Copyright and Scraping Code from the Web

Cinly Ooi cinly.ooi at
Tue Oct 6 15:51:39 UTC 2009

Dear Joe

IANAL, and always consult a lawyer. But here is how I see things

>  a)      whether or not there is a claim of copyright on the blog is
> irrelevant, under U.S. law it is copyrighted by the author of the blog
Yes, unless of course he copied some contents from another source.

 b)      by default non-copyright holders are forbidden from copying,
> distributing, or modifying the work
Yes. You need to get permission.

>  c)       without express claim of copyright as well as express license
> terms (preferably favorable to the corporation), the code on the web page
> may not in any way be copied into or used in any corporate work
> That is the best possible approach.

>  To be truthful, I am sometimes surprised at the number of freelance
> developers who aren’t more aware of copyright law (regardless of their
> national origin) and licensing, yet post code.
> If it is on someone's blog, then email the person. Usually the answer is a

If there isn't, then ask your lawyer to have a look at it. Especially with
code snippets, it is possible that the author cannot assert any copyrights
because there is no original content. For example I think most people will
agree the author cannot claim copyright for  [code] x= {10.20.30}; y
=sin(x); y[0]=sin(10); [/code] where sin(x) is a library function.

When you get snippet from forum/blog site, while the author might not make
it explicit, most would make the assumption that others will copy the code
and welcome it.

Luckily for us, most reputable website, especially programming website, do
carry copyright licensing information.

> To my question, do others take such an approach?  Am I being overly
> sensitive and can relax the approach?
I don't think so. You are just simply very cautious.

>  Is there some other key piece of information I may be ignorant of that
> would cause me to modify it?
 Again, IANAL. But I will consider the context in which the author provide
the information. If he is discussing a solution, or is providing one, I
think a case can be made that he has reasonable expectation that others will
copy it.

Also, sometimes, after you had copied the code, you modify it so heavily
that there is no resemblance to the original. That might mean your code
cease to be a derivative work of the original. Exactly how the revision
history of the this code impact on the other party's copyright is a topic
for your lawyer. ;-)

Best Regards,

I promise to take all due care and respect for you email, BUT will not agree
to abide to any T&C you care to attach to the email. This applies especially
if this is a reply to your  email  containing one.
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