Regarding Copyright and Scraping Code from the Web

John Cowan cowan at
Tue Oct 6 16:48:17 UTC 2009

Joe Bell scripsit:

> 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

Copyright isn't as bright-line as that.  The FSF, who are a fairly
conservative bunch when it comes to copyright enforcement, take the view
that snippets of 10 lines or less are either de minimis or fair use or
both, and does not attempt to enforce the GPL against such uses.

It's definitely safest to have permission in advance for everything
you do.  On the other hand, there's a point where extra added safety
becomes pointless.  Most of us don't don battle armor to cross the
street; likewise, most people don't actually worry about being sued by a
blogger who openly published the source code in such a way as to allow a
reasonable person to conclude that s/he intended it to be used by others.
(Licenses can be implicit, like the implicit license I have to quote
your email that I'm responding to.)

Exactly how much safety you need to buy, and with what, is up to you.

(I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice, but it is not the
unauthorized practice of law either.)

John Cowan  cowan at
It's the old, old story.  Droid meets droid.  Droid becomes chameleon.
Droid loses chameleon, chameleon becomes blob, droid gets blob back
again.  It's a classic tale.  --Kryten, Red Dwarf

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