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Court Finds That Crawling of Sales Information Available on Competitor’s Mobile App Does Not Constitute Crime


Company A accessed the server of a competitor company by using a crawling program to collect information disclosed on the competitor’s mobile app.  The Prosecutors’ Office found that such act constitutes an intrusive act under the Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Information Protection, Etc. (the “Network Act”), infringes on the database producer’s rights under the Copyright Act, and constitutes computer interference with business by damaging computers under the Criminal Code.  As a result, Company A and its relevant officers and employees (the “Defendants”) were prosecuted on these charges.

While the district court held that the Defendants were guilty of all three charges described above, the appellate court (the “Court”) reversed the lower court’s decision and acquitted the Defendants on all charges.

Specific grounds for the acquittal were as follows:

1.   Intrusive Act Under Network Act

Considering factors such as (i) whether the information that Company A obtained through crawling had been disclosed to users, and (ii) whether the competitor took measures to control access to prevent crawling of its server, the Court determined that Company A could not be found to have violated the Network Act by accessing the competitor’s server through crawling.  In addition, even if the Defendants hypothetically violated the terms of use by crawling, the Court found that they could not be held criminally liable immediately.

2.   Violation of Copyright Act

Since there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the information collected by crawling constitutes a significant part of the competitor’s database, or that reproduction of the database conflicts with the general use of the database or unfairly harms the competitor’s interests, the Court found that the alleged infringement of the competitor’s rights cannot be recognized.  In particular, when determining whether the Defendants’ act “conflicts with the general use of the database or unfairly harms the competitor’s interest,” the Court considered aspects such as (i) whether the database information had been already disclosed, and (ii) whether the Defendants’ company could directly utilize the database information for business.

3.   Interference with Business by Damaging Computers

The Court noted that (i) if the causation between crawling and server access failure is not clear, and (ii) if the Defendants intended to check the status of the competitor’s business through crawling and use it for reference to their work, it is difficult to view that the Defendants intentionally caused the access failure. 

In this case, whether or not to hold the Defendants criminally liable for crawling of information that is disclosed on the competitor’s mobile app was disputed.  This case serves as a meaningful precedent with regard to the permitted scope of crawling by providing detailed grounds for intrusive acts under the Network Act, scope of a database producer’s rights protected under the Copyright Act, and grounds for interference with business by damaging computers.

Kim & Chang successfully represented the Defendants and obtained an acquittal of all charges from the appellate court.