The Hendon Mob, the world's largest database dedicated to live poker, is getting ready to initiate unprecedented legal action against Poland's Ministry of Finance, as Global Poker Index (GPI) Chief Executive Officer Alexandre Dreyfus told PokerNews on Monday.
Dreyfus, who acquired the website in July 2013 in a $3 million operation, believes that Poland's Finance Ministry has been systematically acting in violation of the site's terms and conditions, scraping the site to steal the data within its pages.
"Since December 29, we have seen a bot coming from the servers of mf.gov.pl that is crawling the whole website," Dreyfus explained. "We have tried to fight it, and we blocked it."
The owner of the GPI also admitted that his team tried to play with the bot by implementing a little trick that has fed it with inaccurate data for days.
"They have changed the bot’s Internet provider four times already," Dreyfus said. "Our security team has noticed it from day one and, as we have a special tool that allows us to avoid automated bots to steal our data, we fed them with fake data and fake results for over eight days."
According to Dreyfus, by harvesting the Hendon Mob's pages with a bot Poland's Finance Ministry acted in breach of what is included in the section titled "Intellectual Property" of the site's terms and conditions.
As clearly pointed out on the Hendon Mob, "The Hendon Mob Database is owned by The Hendon Mob. You do not and cannot acquire any ownership rights in the database or any derivative data, or derivative works, or the data feeds that may arise or be created from the database. You must not extract or reutilize any data (in whole or in part) of the database; this is strictly forbidden."
"It's on every page," Dreyfus added, explaining how he believes that Poland's authorities could have hardly missed it had they checked the site before releasing the bot. "We have contacted a Polish lawyer who has issued them a warning and sent them a legal letter."
Although the legal validity of a site's terms and conditions could be seen as controversial, several legal precedents seem to support Dreyfus' claim as other similar cases in Europe resulted in decisions that supported the owners of various databases and condemned the scrapers.
Under the EU Database Directive, protective standards for databases adopted by the European Commission back in 1996, the "repeated and systematic extraction and/or re-utilization of insubstantial parts of the contents of the database implying acts which conflict with a normal exploitation of that database or which unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the maker of the database shall not be permitted."
"Wit the advent of the Information Society, the protection of databases takes on added importance," the Directive states. "It is therefore essential that the EU provides a clear and well-defined level of protection for databases so as to ensure an attractive environment for investment while safeguarding users' interests."
"On the basis of the new Directive, manufacturers of databases will be in a position to prohibit the extraction and/or re-utilization of the entirety or substantial parts of the database by third parties. However, this new form of protection should not affect the rights of traditional right-holders, in particular of creators of works incorporated in the contents of a database."
From Twitter to Court
The legal battle announced by Dreyfus broke out during the late hours of Monday when the CEO of the GPI tweeted his disappointment for the behaviour of Poland's Finance Ministry.
"Dear Finance Minister of Poland," Drefus wrote from his Twitter, "please stop crawling/stealing data from The Hendon Mob. It’s illegal."
"Moreover," Dreyfus warned Poland’s authorities, "due to our security procedure, the data you are crawling [is] not accurate. [It's] fake data."
To clarify his position on the issue, Dreyfus also publicly stated his intention to begin legal action to stop what he believes to be the unlawful behaviour of the Ministry. "We will sue [the Finance Minister of Poland] if they used [our] information for any claim," Dreyfus concluded.
Dreyfus' tweets immediately caught the eye of Poland's Deputy Finance Minister Jacek Kapica. "I do not know about that, I’m on vacation," Kapica replied from his personal Twitter account.
Kapica, who is known for his critical views against poker, added that he considers Dreyfus' initiative to be "a provocation," and invited the French businessman to proceed with a legal action if he believed there was ground for one.