German Publishing Giant Claims Blocking Ads Is Copyright Infringement, In Yet Another Lawsuit Against The Industry Leader
from the actually,-no,-it-doesn't dept
For over a decade, some Web sites have been moaning about adblockers. The German publishing giant Axel Springer hates them. It has been pursuing Eyeo, the company behind Adblock Plus, through the courts in Germany for years, accusing it of unfair competition. Here’s how that turned out for the publisher, as reported by Eyeo on its blog:
Axel Springer publishing house has been trying to get ad blocking declared illegal. We beat them in the regional courts, we beat them in the appeals court, so they took us to the supreme court in Germany to try their luck a third time.
A year ago, Axel Springer lost at Germany’s supreme court.
Of course, big publishers don’t let little things like losing court cases at every level of the legal system stop them from pursuing their attack. As the Heise Online site explains (original in German), Axel Springer is suing Eyeo yet again, this time for alleged copyright infringement (via Google Translate):
“Advertising blockers change the programming code of websites and thus directly access the legally protected offerings of publishers,” explains Claas-Hendrik Soehring, Head of Media Law at Axel Springer. “In the long run, they will not only damage a central financing basis for digital journalism but will also jeopardize open access to opinion-forming information on the Internet ”
As Eyeo’s company spokesperson pointed out to Heise Online, this claim is ridiculous. Adblocking software operates within a person’s browser; it simply changes what appears on the screen by omitting the ads. It’s no different from resizing a browser window, or modifying a Web page’s appearance using one of the hundreds of other browser plugins that are available. It’s completely under the control of the user, and doesn’t touch anything on the server side. The fact that Axel Springer is making such a technically illiterate argument shows that it is now desperately scraping the barrel of legal arguments. Maybe it’s time for the German publisher to accept that users have the right to format the Web pages they view in any way they like — and that adblocking software is perfectly legal.