Does Netflix allow web scraping?

Feb 20, 2024 ยท 2 min read

Web scraping refers to extracting data from websites through automated means, rather than manual copying and pasting. This can be an efficient way to collect large datasets, but it also raises ethical and legal considerations.

When it comes to Netflix, the streaming giant likely discourages scraping even as they avoid explicitly banning it in their terms of service. However, copyright law and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) may still restrict people from scraping Netflix without permission.

Why You Might Want to Scrape Netflix

Researchers often want to analyze Netflix data to study trends in the movie industry. Marketers may want to see what content is popular. And engineers could scrape Netflix to build experimental recommendation engines.

Scraping can quickly extract large datasets that would take forever to compile manually. So there are reasonable use cases.

The Gray Legal Area

Netflix's terms of service do not specifically permit or ban scraping. They do prohibit using the service for commercial purposes without a license. And they reserve the right to terminate accounts engaged in scraping or unauthorized automation.

So while scraping Netflix is not outright illegal, it exists in a gray area where Netflix could file a lawsuit or terminate your account if they choose.

The CFAA also makes it illegal to access computers "without authorization" or in ways that "exceed authorized access". Violating terms of service agreements can count as exceeding authorized access.

So scraping advocates argue reasonable, low-volume scraping should be acceptable. But companies often discourage it to control their data and servers. Tread carefully if you wish to scrape.

I aimed to overview the key nuances around web scraping Netflix and the associated legal considerations. There are reasonable arguments on both sides, but ultimately users scrape third-party sites at their own risk.

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