[extropy-chat] So along comes this legal precedent...
wingcat at pacbell.net
Sat Aug 14 04:48:04 UTC 2004
Ah, the vagaries of work. One never knows what one
will stumble across.
One of my current jobs has been to build a data mining
script, to turn a very limited search interface
provided by King County (of Washington state) into
useful data for a real estate company. The
information is your standard "must provide to the
public" kind of thing, without limitation.
Only King County decided that data miners, or any kind
of automated, high-speed access, can not be supported,
and are trying to say the law prevents access to the
data at any rate greater than a human with a basic Web
browser. (They're also saying it strains their
resources - but one could pose the same argument about
providing online access in the first place. And
having written the script and timed the resources, I
can testify that - assuming their scripts were written
with the same competency I use for my own - the
increased load on their servers from my scripts is
quite minimal. I'm thus not entirely certain my
employer was the only one mining them, but hardware is
cheap. It's like refusing to give out copies of a
report because all of the printed copies are gone, and
ignoring the ability to print more.) Just to be on
the safe side, I've disabled the offending scripts on
my employer's side for the moment, but...
It turns out that this is a legal gray area in most of
the United States. My employer has a meeting set up
with Washington's Attorney General to address the
matter. It has been represented to me that this is
likely to help establish precedent for other states as
Now, granted, this is far from a core Extropian issue,
or even a core "freedom of information" issue. (One
could well view it as a corporation trying to improve
what those with resources can accomplish, among other
valid counter-arguments.) Even so, I think some on
this list might find it food for thought.
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