Terms And Conditions May Protect Websites From Infringing Screen Scrapers: Ryanair Limited v Billigfluege.de

Author:Ms Áine Matthews
Profession:LK Shields

Website owners must often contend with the activities of third party screen scrapers. The website owners are now in a stronger position due to a recent decision by Mr. Justice Michael Hanna in the Irish High Court in the case of Ryanair Limited v Billigfluege.de GmbH delivered on 26 February 2010.

This Ryanair case establishes a useful precedent in the area of jurisdiction over websites generally. In particular, it establishes the jurisdiction of the Irish Court in relation to the Terms of Use on Ryanair's website, including the prohibitions contained in those Terms of Use against screen scraping. It reinforces the need for robust Terms of Use.

Ryanair Limited .v. Billigfluege

The Ryanair case concerns a claim by Ryanair that the service offered by the Billigfluege website breaches the Terms of Use and trade mark, copyright and database rights of Ryanair's website. Billigfluege operates a price comparison website that allows users of their website to compare prices for flights. In order to provide this service, Billigfluege takes information from Ryanair's website (without Ryanair's consent), an activity known as "screen scraping", and provides that information to its users for a fee.

Mr. Justice Hanna's decision relates only to a preliminary issue as to whether the case should be heard in Ireland or Germany. It is not a full decision on the allegation of screen scraping or the other issues which are before the Court.

Preliminary Jurisdictional Issue

In any dispute there is an initial issue that must always be determined: where should a defendant be sued? Billigfluege, a German based company argued that it was not appropriate that proceedings be brought in Ireland and that proceedings should be brought in Germany. They relied on Article 2 of the Brussels Regulation (the set of rules regulating which courts have jurisdiction in legal disputes of a civil or commercial nature between individuals/companies resident in different member states of the European Union). Article 2 provides that a defendant should be sued in its own domicile. However, Ryanair argued that while that may be the general rule, a number of exemptions to that general rule exist, most notably that the parties can contract that the courts and the law of a particular jurisdiction can apply to disputes under that contract.

Ryanair claimed that by Billigfluege entering the Ryanair website and extracting content from that website that it agreed to be bound by Ryanair's Terms of...

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