Thursday, August 23, 2007

Boonk and Lodder on Website Access

Martine Boonk (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) and Arno R. Lodder (Free University of Amsterdam) have posted Regulating Website Access for Automated Means Such as Search Bots and Agents: Property or Contract? on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

This paper deals with legal issues concerning website access for software agents, notably the question how terms and conditions on a website can be presented in such a way that software agents and other automated programs exploring the internet can adhere to them. We discuss the technology behind requesting website content, and indicate for what reasons website owners regulate access to their web sites.

The core of the paper analyses the legal grounds for applying terms and conditions to websites: property rights and contractual duties. In our discussion we take into account the theory of browse-wrap licenses and case law from both Common Law and Civil Law countries. We also argue that under specific circumstances, the mere visiting of a website may constitute a contract.

The question as to whether what holds for human users also holds for automated means is given special attention. Finally, we introduce ways to more effectively regulate website access for automated means.

Ben Barros

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