Legal · B2B

Do websites and apps need legal permission from businesses before they can list them ?

Nitin Asokan

August 6th, 2014

There are many websites and apps that help users find businesses and other locations around them. Do they need legal permission from those businesses before they can list their name, address and contact information for commercial purpose ? If so, would an e-mail consent from the business manager or owner suffice ?  

It doesn't seem like Yelp get approvals from businesses. Below is a section copy-pasted from Yelp's FAQ:

"We license basic business information from third party data providers who gather this type of information from public records and other sources. We also get business information from our users, who are helpful enough to correct the info we have, or let us know about a new spot that just opened down the street. Please feel free to let us know if our information is out of date!"

David Crooke Serial entrepreneur and CTO

August 6th, 2014

In general, not in the USA, and Yelp's text implies that well. The 1st amendment protects your right to make statements about other businesses. A few caveats:

1. If you use their logo or other artwork, you will likely be violating copyright, and the fair use doctrine is unlikely to apply.
2. Ditto if you grab large chunks of their content.
3. Trademarks need to be acknolweged when used in content. 
4. If you provide misleading information, you could be sued. This is America :)

Michael Brill Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products

August 6th, 2014

4. You can be sued by anyone, anytime for any reason. This is America. :)

The general rule in the US is that facts are not protectable, but novel expressions of those facts are. Joe's Donuts is at 123 Main St. and is open from 8AM-midnight and sells a 12" bacon-jalapeno-cream filled donut for $9... just facts... not even a fair use issue. Even if you use their logo for the purpose of promoting their business, they're unlikely to be too grumpy about that. In the unlikely event they complain, then stop using it. As always, it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission. 

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