Internet Law

Firm’s Archive Search Not Illegal

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A Pennsylvania law firm has emerged unscathed from its trip through the “Wayback Machine.”

Judge Robert Kelly of Philadelphia has ruled Harding, Earley, Follmer & Frailey did not infringe a company’s copyright by obtaining its archived Internet pages using a search tool called the Wayback Machine. Nor did the law firm hack into the pages in violation of federal law, since the pages it viewed were not protected due to a computer glitch, the judge said.

The judge ruled Friday on a motion for summary judgment, the New Jersey Law Journal reports.

Harding Earley, an intellectual property law firm in suburban Philadelphia, used the search tool to find information about a patient advocacy company that sued its client for misappropriating trade secrets.

The plaintiff, Healthcare Advocates, had attempted to lock those Internet pages from view, but the technology failed.

“It would be an absurd result if an attorney defending a client against charges of trademark and copyright infringement was not allowed to view and copy publicly available material, especially material that his client was alleged to have infringed,” Kelly wrote.

The opinion is Healthcare Advocates Inc. v. Harding, Earley, Follmer & Frailey (PDF), No. 05-3524.

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