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I'm curious to hear the actual legal explanation. To me, it seems like showtimes are facts and my understanding is that it's fine to re-publish facts. Of course, that doesn't mean you're allowed to scrape and re-publish the facts directly. Is that the main issue here?

That was our initial justification/rationalization too... They were public facts. It'd be like repurposing the current temperature. But apparently that's not the case here. They actually own the rights to these facts and they had court cases they won to back it up.

So the scraping was an issue too, yes. Thats probably always a legal grey area. But in this case, it was also just the basic reuse of those facts through any means, scraping or otherwise.

So much so that we couldn't even link to google movies if the URL had a zip code passed as a query. Thatd be illegal since google alone licensed the data, not us. It seems crazy but we didn't have the means to fight it. (Though I'm assuming a programmatic link like this in a commercial app is different than someone linking on their blog.)

The closest analogy I could think of is live sports broadcasts where technically even description or dissemination without consent is illegal. That's why live blogging for example isn't possible in many situations.

This was discussed on TechDirt, without conclusion, in 2009. http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090924/2309516315.shtml and this is the oft referenced SCOTUS ruling on the matter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feist_v._Rural

Even better explanation of SCOTUS ruling http://www.law.cornell.edu/copyright/cases/499_US_340.htm

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