Is It Okay to Download Websites for Own Use

Started by Webhelpforums, February 07, 2017, 04:57:22 PM


Ethics of Downloading Websites
First off, I want to highlight that I am not a lawyer. I have no qualified opinion when it comes to any kind of legal concerns.

I have, however, spent some time thinking of the potential ethical issues when it comes to grabbing sites on the internet for later future reference and use. If you are pondering about the same, if it is okay to download a website or not, you may want to at least skim some of my thoughts concerning this topic.

Please notice that I know nothing about law, and hence this is not legal advice. You should always do your own in-depth research when it comes to such matters like the ones described in this article. One thing in particular to bear in mind is that many countries, even among Western, have different laws and interpretation of fair use and copyrights.

If You Do Own The Website
If you have created and own the site you wish to grab a copy of, e.g. as a backup to showcase potential customers, you can in most cases do so without problems, at least if you have full ownership and copyright of the work.

When releasing new versions of our software, we use a build script that launches A1 Website Download which then:

  • Downloads the online product help.
  • Converts the downloaded online help to offline format.
Were we some day to sell our products on physical media, we would also use this to store the online help on offline media such as CDs.

Example: You have an old website hosted on an old webhost to which you have lost access, but you would like to keep a local copy. Such situations can arise when e.g. old website hosts like GeoCities close.

If You Do Not Own The Website
If you are planning on using a site downloader tool on a website to which you do not own, here is a list of things you should never do unless you have been given explicit permission to do so:

  • Upload websites to the net you have downloaded and copied.
  • Give other people access to the website content you have downloaded.
Many times, you can use downloaded content in accordance with what is considered fair use. What that includes depend on the country you are located in, but could e.g. be offline surfing, i.e. browse and read website content you have downloaded while still being connected to the internet and similar.

Example: You are traveling to a place with poor or no internet connectivity, and you need to have all important information with you.

Example: You have paid for some content including the right to download it to your own computer.

Example: The website is closing down soon, and you only have a limited period to secure a local copy of the content.

Download Websites to Learn
It is important to realize that A1 Website Download only downloads the HTML, CSS, Javascript, images etc. that the website sends to browsers and crawlers. You can not see e.g. the PHP or ASP.Net code that generated it.

If you want to learn how a website layout works (HTML, CSS, Javascript, images etc.) it is usually easier to use the save function that exist in most major browsers. Using that, you can download a single page including all the used files that help form the website layout.

Final Thoughts on Downloading Websites
You should always take great care in never overloading a web server. If you download without taking steps to ensure you are not overloading a website, you risk getting blocked from access - and rightly so.

If the least unsure, configure the site download solution you use to only download one or two pages at a time. You can also ask the website owner for explicit permission even if you think your usage will be well within what can be considered fair use. You may also want to check if the website continues to be responsive after you started the download.

If you have reached the conclusion that you need to download and store a site to a local disk on your computer, e.g. to surf and view it offline, you might want to consider the 30 days trial version of our website copier tool, A1 Website Download :)
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