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There are some recent federal cases (Weev http://www.wired.com/opinion/2012/11/att-ipad-hacker-when-em..., Aaron Swartzhttp://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/09/aaron-swartz-felony..., and a prosecution of scalpers http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/07/ticketmaster/) that view scraping as a felony hacking offense. The feds think that an attempt to evade CAPTCHAS, IP and MAC blocks is a felony worthy of years in prison.

In fact, the feds might think that clearing your cookies or switching browsers to get another 10 free articles from the NYTimes is also felony hacking.

Which is to say, be careful what you admit to in this forum AND how you characterize what you are doing in your private conversations and e-mails.

Weev now faces a decade or more in prison because he drummed up publicity by sending emails to journalists that used the verb "stole".

Very good point, I've added the following disclaimer:

  While scraping can sometimes be used as a legitimate way to
  access all kinds of data on the internet, it’s also important
  to consider the legal implications. As was pointed out in the
  comments on HN[1], there are many cases where scraping data 
  may be considered illegal, or open you to the possibility of
  being sued. Similar to using a firearm, some uses of web
  scraping techniques can be used for utility or sport, while
  others can land you in jail. I am not a lawyer, but you
  should be smart about how you use it.
[1]: Linking to this (parent) comment

Thanks for adding that and linking. The feds are nutter butter these days.

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