For The Fifth Time Now, German Court Says Adblocking Is Legal

from the wanna-go-for-six? dept

A few months back we noted that various German publishers, including publishing giant Axel Springer kept suing adblockers, claiming they were illegal… and they kept losing. AdBlock Plus notes that German publishers are now 0 for 5 as yet another legal challenge to ad blocking has been rejected:

We received news late last week that we?d won our fifth straight lawsuit in Germany. This time it was brought by one Germany?s top newspapers, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (think a German version of the New York Times), and it follows victories over Axel Springer, RTL Interactive, ProSieben/Sat1 and Zeit/Handelsblatt. (That?s a veritable who?s who of old guard German publishing btw.)

The setting was Munich this time round, but the outcome was the same as the four times previous: it is indeed legal for users to block ads and our Acceptable Ads initiative is not a detriment for publishers but rather a potential benefit to them.

The judge clearly recognized the issues, noting that there’s no contract between users and a site that requires them to view ads, no matter how much publishers may want to pretend that what they refer to as a “social contract” is somehow a legal contract. The court also, rightly, noted that the law is not designed to pump up a business model that is failing, and that it’s up to the publishers themselves to create better business models.

Even though we’re a publisher who relies on ads for some of our revenue, we’ve never been shy about recognizing that ad blockers are an essential form of freedom for users, to control what goes into their computers, and an important security tool as well. Would our own lives be easier if ad blockers didn’t exist? Perhaps. But, as always, the onus needs to be on us to build business models that work, and not rely on forcing people into doing things they’re not comfortable doing.

The sooner more publications realize this, the sooner we can get past the broken system we have of online advertising today.

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Comments on “For The Fifth Time Now, German Court Says Adblocking Is Legal”

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JBDragon (profile) says:

Maybe if they didn’t thow a zillion very invasive ad’s to people. Plus all the tracking of people from site to site and so on. Basically downloading a bunch of garbage from 20+ different sites just for a small article. All the garbage using more Data then what you want to view. It’s been shown that up to 79% of what you’re downloading is Ad’s!!! That’s just ridiculous. When you have CAP’s, and /or paying for each and every bit of Data you download on your cell plan, these company’s are crazy.

It’s no different from me using a DVR and hitting a button and skipping all the ad’s. So we have Product placement in shows.

Remember the days of Pop Over windows with Ad’s then Pop under and Microsoft and other’s blocked that right in the browser because it was getting crazy. A bunch of windows opening up behind your browser of ad’s!!! It’s so bad now you can get a virus from one of these’s ad’s. We have every right to block this garbage. If they don’t like it, block everyone using a Ad blocker!!! It can be done. Of course people will just leave, but you can’t force it on people.

Can I go to these Ad company’s houses and take a dump right in the middle of their place? Why not, to me it’s the same thing.

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I never understood the purpose of pop-under ads. I can understand pop-up ads since they block the browser window to get the user’s attention, but pop-under windows are (by design) under the current window. So how exactly does this help advertisers if people aren’t seeing the ads?

Does anyone know if there were any studies that looked at the display rate of pop-under windows versus the number of clicks? Or do advertisers only care about their “unique impressions” and “number of eyeballs” rather than actually getting people to buy the product?

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The idea of a pop-under ad is that eventually the user will close the original window, and then the window with the ad will be revealed – so the user still sees it, but it doesn’t intrude on their ongoing browsing session.

Also, because the exposure to the ad is less immediate than with a pop-up ad, it’s less likely that the user will A: reflexively close it as soon as they notice it, and B: be able to figure out which site caused it to open.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“because the exposure to the ad is less immediate than with a pop-up ad, it’s less likely that the user will A: reflexively close it as soon as they notice it”

Works the opposite way for me. If I see one, I don’t even look at the content – and if I notice it, that will make me less likely to buy whatever’s advertised.

“and B: be able to figure out which site caused it to open”

Doubly annoying, since any site that merrily wastes my system’s resources is also going to get less hits once I work out which is which.

Maybe that doesn’t work with normal users, but it’s counterproductive – especially from someone like me, who doesn’t care about ads appearing unless they annoy me.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Oh, I agree that any vaguely savvy user is going to find them more annoying than anything else – but unless you notice the new window before closing the one in front (e.g. via a Taskbar entry) and close it before even bringing it to the front, your eyes will inevitably glimpse the window contents at least in peripheral vision… and in the minds of the people who push such ads, that’s enough to increase the mindshare of whatever they’re pushing.

(Also, far too many people don’t meet even the low bar of “vaguely savvy”.)

Doubly annoying, since any site that merrily wastes my system’s resources is also going to get less hits once I work out which is which.

That’s exactly the point, though.

Yes, people who realize that a site is bothering them with pop-under ads are going to be less likely to visit that site – but the same is true with pop-up ads, and with pop-up ads, you usually notice the ad immediately, making it easy to tell which site triggered the ad.

With pop-under ads, however, it’s far more likely (relatively speaking) that you will fail to notice the new ad in time to directly connect it with the site which triggered it. Thus, the site is less likely to lose your traffic (especially if you’re not savvy enough to track the ad back to its trigger by other means), or at least to lose it as soon – and the advertiser still gets the impression, as well as (at least by some lines of reasoning) the mindshare.

Thus, you have both most of the advantages of a pop-up ad as well as one advantage – that disconnect – which a pop-up does not have. Thus, a reason for advertisers to use pop-under ads, which is what the question was about.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I run script blockers as well as ad blockers. I pay attention to what third party scripts are doing.

It’s generally a bad sign when a website asks for permission to run more than a handful of scripts. It’s always a bad sign when there are dozens or hundreds of permission requests.

When a company demands that I disable my computer’s security system in order to do business with them, well, there are other companies that want my money that are much more secure to boot.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

The big difference is TD doesn’t value ad revenue over the users. Rather than waste time making demands, you politely asked while at the same time offering an easy opt out system. TD got whitelisted by a bunch of people who ad-block everywhere, because it wasn’t a battle.

TD is aware of how shitty and invasive some ad offerings are, and magically the ads served up aren’t giant take over blaring music crap. Its almost like you took a look at the web, saw all the crap users hate, and went out of your way to avoid doing that.

I wonder how many of these newspaper moguls have browsed their own offerings on a stock web browser. I’d love to see video of their faces when they see what they are putting their customers through to get a few cents.

Sometimes it is better to ask nicely and do your best to offer ads that aren’t invasive.

Whatever (profile) says:

It’s quickly reaching a point I think where the entire economic model on which the internet is built and operated may be destroyed. The replacements (such as the “integrated” ad posts on Techdirt) are not really tolerable long term and may in fact harm site owners.

The end result could be that the powerful internet sites will be those with access to funds outside of advertising, and not those which are the most popular or most informative. The net effects for users may not be a real benefit.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

try re-reading my post, and using Google (your friend who knows things) to search a bit. It’s amazing what you can find.

Most websites exist and are supported financially in only a few ways: Either they are selling you something, or they are selling your attention to others in order to pay their hosting and stay online. Even when you think it’s free, it’s not – your movements and your searches are sold as value to others. The third way is by selling access, subscriptions, crowd funding, and the like. The final option is a site online to promote a product or service bought or obtained offline.

The “ad supported” model and the subscription models are the two most common. There are hybrids in between (Techdirt as an example) they rely on both (and in the case of Techdirt, a little crowd funding / crowd begging works too).

The numbers are out there, you can search for “percentage of ad supported websites” or similar to get an idea. You can alternately got check the top 100 websites and see what models they use to understand how big an impact ad blocking has.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“The end result could be that the powerful internet sites will be those with access to funds outside of advertising, and not those which are the most popular or most informative.”

Here’s the problem – a great many currently popular sites depend on advertising, and that’s where the get the scourge of clickbait and tabloid lies. The popular sites are generally not particularly informative, as both their content and presentation are geared toward attracting advertising dollars. Popularity has never been an indicator of quality in any industry, and that is amplified in a world dominated by sites like the Daily Mail and Buzzfeed. Those sites dying would arguably be a great thing to happen.

“The net effects for users may not be a real benefit.”

Or, they may be a great benefit to users. You have a lot of “may” in your claims here, but as ever no substance and no interest in discussing the alternate points of view. You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to pretend that your tastes are fact.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“It’s quickly reaching a point I think where the entire economic model on which the internet is built and operated may be destroyed.”

I disagree with the bit about it being “the entire economic model on which the internet is based”, but ignoring that…

I hope and pray that your prediction ends up being correct. I think it would only result in good things for users.

Anonymous Coward says:

>The end result could be that the powerful internet sites will be those with access to funds outside of advertising, and not those which are the most popular or most informative.

Or the end result might be that the internet sites are those which are not beholden to advertisers, can be more informative… and therefore become more popular… and are therefore more effective…. leaving the ambitious and greedy ad-pushers to perish in their own toxic excrement.

More realistically, it’s likely that there will be two obvious paths: milking the gullible for a quick buck, or building reputation for the long term. After all, why should the net be different from … well, from all other forms of human interaction?

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Or the end result might be that the internet sites are those which are not beholden to advertisers,”

They are still beholden to advertisers, and worse yet they are likely to change their editorial content to try to promote products “in line”. It’s not really any different from the very annoying product placements in movies and TV these days, as they try to make up for lost revenue.

You can look at Techdirt as a good example. 10 to 20% of posts every day are “promotional” in nature, and that excludes times when the site is also begging for crowdfunding. Can you imagine news sites where every 5th story is actually a sales pitch?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

And yet, 10 or 20% stories being promotional are tolerable (and I can just ignore them), while 4-5 pop ups on my browser that slow down my computer, plus some being a potential risk (some come with virus) and that’s when they don’t load videos with sound that annoy me as I use to listen to music…

Yeah. I think I prefer “sponsored stories” by a mile.

And yet, I don’t mind banners and static images that much (as long as they don’t have virus or are too heavy).

It’s their excessive approach trying to FORCE my attention like pop-ups or video ads do what annoys me. And most users are like that too.

And you know, the spread use of those practices is what got people into installing ad-blocks. If they had been more moderate in their advertising, that practice wouldn’t have been so spread as it’s now.

Now, it’s them themselves the ones who are killing the golden goose, not the users.

And on another note regarding this article. It’s irrelevant whether the sites get their revenue or not to make it punishable by law.

In the end, it’s MY own computer and I decide what I want to see on it or not, and what I install on it or not. Sites have their perfect right to give me access or not, of course.

But what I install to block what I don’t want to see it’s up to me, and it’s not something that a judge should decide (I’m free to self censor whatever information I don’t want to see).

It’s as if some TV maker decided to create a device that blocks and identifies ads (prolly smart TVs will start getting such a feature at some point).

PS: also, if some ads didn’t threat their potential customers as if they were IDIOTS, people wouldn’t hate them so much. That’s another point to take into account, I’d say.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Oh, I agree – it’s the end user’s choice. My point isn’t “it’s legal or not” rather the question of what replaces it and if the replacement is better or even more annoying in the end. Paid posts seem nice until sites start to let them shade their content, or make it somewhat less easy to tell what is promotional and what is not. Gizmodo is bad for that.

So yes, you are free to block the ads – but don’t complain about how they work to make money in the future because of it. I suspect plenty of people will be begging for the ads back.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

If sites are worse than flashing banners, auto-play videos and popups, then those sites will die in a fire too.

It’s not an all-or-nothing exchange here. Ads will still be around, as will other revenue models.

But when they go too far in a negative direction, there’s going to be pushback, and they get to suffer the consequences.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“If sites are worse than flashing banners, auto-play videos and popups, then those sites will die in a fire too.”

…and that’s really the crux of the situation. Rather than whining to the courts or whining that you don’t like an alternative business model, the way to fix this is to make the ads tolerable. Ads that autoplay video and sound, and that pop over what you’re trying to read with obscured close buttons, ads that are vectors for malware – these are the things people block.

It’s down to the publishers to make sure their ads are things people don’t want to block, not for courts to stop people using ad blockers.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“Oh, I agree – it’s the end user’s choice.”

So… why do you have a problem with that choice being not to accept ad-driven sites? Or, at least crappy ad-driven sites (most people block ads for security reasons or because the ads annoy the hell out of them, not because they don’t want the site to get paid).

“Paid posts seem nice until sites start to let them shade their content, or make it somewhat less easy to tell what is promotional and what is not. Gizmodo is bad for that.”

If people object, they can also choose not to read those sites. Your main complaint seems to be this particular site, however, and I’ve never seen a hint that editorial content is influenced on Techdirt, nor any attempt to present an ad as though it’s an article – such things are always clearly marked. You’re welcome to present your evidence if you feel differently.

But, I’ll still take facts maybe being “massaged” to a particular point of view than the constant lies and misdirection made up by sites that depend on clickbait ad dollars. If a majority start to agree with me, well they need to find a different way of making money, don’t they? We’ll see what they actually come up with, but protecting a crappy business model because you’re scared of the one alternative you can personally imagine isn’t a sensible objection based on reality.

As ever, barring you bothering to present some actual evidence, your obsessive objection to this site seems very strange.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Web sites that start putting product placement within their content soon become the ones that I stop visiting once it becomes obnoxious enough. If I were looking for what the advertiser was selling, I can easily find the companies that are selling what I want to buy. And, like Netflix, when I WANT IT, not when the advertiser wants it. And on the device I want it. And where I want it.

And product placements in TV? I mentioned in a previous TD post that the remaining two TV programs I was watching a few years ago, on CBS, I quit watching due to horrible product placement. It just ruined the show, so I quit watching. I hope CBS is happy with the result. At least I am. So now I watch no network TV at all. Or cable.

Netflix and Hulu work great without ads.

As for product placements in Movies? The new Star Wars movie was the first movie I had seen at a theater in quite a long time. I didn’t seem to notice any product placements for space craft or space suits, or particular brands of light sabers. My family and I booked our tickets weeks in advance, and then saw the movie several times, including the opening night showing. And bought opening night T-shirts, etc.

I might be part of an attractive demographic to advertisers — but I can’t stand advertisers and have a violently revolting reaction towards them.

The fact that there were some ads before the movie reinforced my extreme reluctance to attend movie theaters.

As for TechDirt having promotional ads and content, I don’t mind that. It is a direct, honest and straightforward approach.

Kronomex (profile) says:

Of course anything that interferes with revenue and profits is going to be “illegal”. I cancelled my Netflix trial (Australia) after two hours after they wanted me to turn off just about every privacy/adblocking program I have installed (including Firefox private browsing) before I could watch the ONE program I found after over half an hour of working my way through the dross that’s available here. Any site that whines and bleats that I must turn off my adblocking, Noscript, etc. software before I can peruse their site doesn’t get a second visit.

JBDragon (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Netflix doesn’t have Ad’s!!! I have Ad-Blockers running and Netflix doesn’t tell me to disable them. The only thing Netflix is now allowing any more is VPN’s Trying to access content in the U.S.Netflix you can’t get in your own country Netflix for whatever reason. Netflix has been putting a stop to that and the content providers have been bitching.

There’s NO ad’s on Netflix Site that I’m aware of, and there’s no commercial’s in any of their content. I’m looking now to make sure.

Yep, Main login Page, the only thing Ghostery is showing is (Signal) which is a beacons/tag manager. I’m blocking that. After signing in, It’s still only that 1 item!!! It’s about the cleanest site I’ve been to.

I’m not sure what is going on. Let alone if Netflix in Australia is really any different. There would be no need to have any 3rd party ad’s on their site. They make their money from the Subscription fee you pay every month.

That leave me to believe you’re trying to use a VPN and that’s failing.

Anonymous Coward says:


“it’s up to the publishers themselves to create better business models. “

They try, with subscriptions. But I’m not sure if they have a future if they stick to the current prices.

The “Süddeutsche Zeitung” wants €32 per month, the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”(FAZ, big newspaper) €40, to have a Swiss example the “Neue Züricher Zeitung”(NZZ, popular one) charges €60 per month. That is for the online versions only.

If I want to read different views on a topic I’d end up paying €100 or more. In an economy/country in which 40-50% earn less than €2200 per month I doubt many can afford that much.

Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

Sorry but I am not going to cry and Tears for the online Advertising companies. A person who surfs the internet nowadays is barraged with all sorts of invasive forms of Ad’s.

The Ad companies have no one to blame but themselves, they have graduated from ads that were banners to intrusive things, like pop-under, mouse-overs, IFrames, redirects, oversize, auto play, malvertising and virus laden ads, forcing you to click or hit the esc button, forcing you to click thru and on and on and on and it is even worse if your on a tablet or mobile device.

If your on a tablet or mobile device you have all the same worries and the added bonus of watching your device bandwidth get eaten up and your device slowing down or grinding to a close halt.

The advertisers thirst for cash and subjecting surfers to the aforementioned garbage type ads is the whole reason Ad Blockers are so prevalent now and the Ad Blocking industry has been booming.

I realize sites need and want revenue from the ads, we all get that, however I will be damned if I am going to sit and be prey to the intrusive ones that turn a simple web site visit into one of those annoying moments were I can wait to get the fuck away from that site and vow never to return and go off to search for what I am looking for elsewhere on the web.

As for the sites who kindly as you to turn off your ad blocker, I do that to the ones where I find the Ad’s aren’t intrusive, but to the others that ask and then they pull the above laden intrusive ads..fuck you!

If you are on a t

Anonymous Coward says:

Ad industries never cared what I wanted. They never asked permission to use my bandwidth, they just took it.

Now I don’t care what the ad industry wants. I’m taking my preferences without consideration to what they wish.

They’ve made their bed and are unhappy with it. I don’t see them trying to do serious changes so they are not getting it yet.

Tin Foil Hat says:

Tiny Violin

Advertisers are especially stupid. Their solution is always to make ads louder and more obnoxious.

If anything ads that play sound and video break a social contract.

It doesn’t matter where it happens. Advertisers have been playing the same game regardless of media. The more obnoxious the ads are, the more likely consumers are to block them.

The ad industry is certainly dense. Their business model is wrong everywhere and the results are always the same.

It never occurs to them that it to ask people what annoys them most. When they say “ads that start playing sound” then you stop making those types of ads. Some ads are more tolerable. Consumers will tell you if you ask.

Advertisers are greedy and cheap. They’ve reaped what they’ve sewn.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Tiny Violin

Automatically playing sound and video on a web page does break a social contract. But since when do advertisers care about such things?

When I visit a site and it has video playing, even silent video, I am done with that site. Or at the very least with that page view.

The ironic thing is that the web site operator and the advertiser incorrectly believes a good thing just happened — an ad impression. It was an ‘impression’ alright, but not the kind they were wanting. It made me less likely to ever visit their site again. More likely to attempt to block it in any way possible. Etc. This builds up over time until they wonder what happened?

Anonymous Coward says:

I recently cleared my adBlock whitelist, and this was a timely reminder to add Techdirt back into it, because you guys are pretty good about these things.
A month or two ago, I looked at four or five websites, shopping for microwaves. I bought a microwave at one of those online stores, but letting ads back through immediately brought up an ad for one of the less-appealing stores, advertising microwaves, which I obviously don’t need any more.
I sometimes wonder if “they” want us to see online ads to make us think that, even though we’re being tracked, the people tracking us are so utterly crap that there’s no real danger in allowing the tracking to continue…

Ninja (profile) says:

I do like how TD operates. Shell out some money and you get added benefits so you can support their work while ditching ads altogether. I honestly wouldn’t mind paying for some online services to support them if the price is fair. I’m willing to bet we will see more examples like TD in the future. You get the entire glory of the service for free but you can choose to pay to support it and get some extra in return. I could not pay this year because the currency here is very devalued so the price simply multiplied by 3 in the span of a few months. But I still get all of TD. And TD can be sure I will support them whenever I can.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: any "social contract" was violated by the ad networks themselves

Yup. Other types of ads, ads with sound, moving images, pop-ups… those are annoying but can be tolerable so long as they don’t go too overboard.

When ads became a way to infect machines with malware, threatening the security of visitors to sites because the ad networks didn’t care enough to ensure that such infected ads didn’t slip through, that was the point where they transitioned from ‘annoying’ to ‘threat’, and that was the point where ad-blockers weren’t just something to make browsing better, but a necessity to protect your computer.

At this point ad-blockers are just another layer of computer security, along with anti-virus and anti-malware programs, and going without just because it might cost some site a few pennies would be incredibly foolish.

sc (profile) says:

Until now, I had no idea just how dumb advertisers actually were/are.

I mean, when are they going to wake up and realize that WE DON’T WANT THEIR ADS – or anyone else’s for that matter? WE are the reason Adblock Plus was created.

Don’t they get it?

Also interesting to note that those sites currently blocking the use of Adblock Plus are now seeing big declines in site traffic. Gee, wonder why?

But how excellent is that?! Yay for the little people!

Anyway, ads only exist on the premise that we, the little people, don’t know what we want until we’re shown, which I find personally insulting and offensive.

If I want something, I’ll go look for it. Normal people usually do….

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