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.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: adblock, axel springer, eyeo

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “German Publishing Giant Claims Blocking Ads Is Copyright Infringement, In Yet Another Lawsuit Against The Industry Leader”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
77 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

"Advertising blockers change the programming code of websites and thus directly access the legally protected offerings of publishers," explains Claas-Hendrik Soehring

Some explanation he’s got there. I would expect an "explanation" to actually include some level of detail, what they have there is a statement not an explanation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Because ad content is served via links/embeds in the html sent by the server ad blockers work by preventing your browser from loading content from the servers in those links. They don’t modify the content, they prevent the web site from consuming your bandwidth from loading ad content you don’t wish to see. Not unlike blocking phone numbers from sending data to your fax machine and consuming your paper and ink resources, if such a thing were possible.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I wonder how much successful adblocking you could do simply by creating a rule that says "never allow an iframe nested inside another iframe to load". Because it seems like all the ad networks do that these days, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen legitimate content do it, so the false-positive rate would be pretty low…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It’s one of the rules I’ve got set in my browsers, and it works really well 🙂 Every once in a while I get a site I have to disable the rule on, but rarely.

However, there’s still lots of popunder code being served up by ad servers as well… and non-iframe script-based ads abound as well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Some sites circumvent the adblockers by proxying all the ad content through their own servers. You can’t block the ads from acme.com if all the ads and content are served from acme.com.

But you can block behaviors like iframes (as you point out), popups, video embeds, animated graphics, etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You can’t block the ads from acme.com if all the ads and content are served from acme.com.

Sure you can, because you can filter more specifically than just a whole site. If all the ads are inside a nice little acme.com/something/ads/… directory (and they usually are), you can simply filter out that subdirectory: none of the ads, all of the content. Most (if not all) adblockers already do this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

^^ this ^^

First thing I do after installing a browser on a new machine is install an ad blocker. No more brickage for me. Of course I whitelist certain sites to support them but I’ll block them again at the first sign of a malicious or even annoying ad (like those animated ones that flash to grab your attention).

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s bad enough, but apparently some of these sites allow the advertising company, via a link, to load their javascript directly to your browser completely devoid of any review. Seems that might be negligent. How are they not held responsible?

Because someone, somewhere along the way, decided that if a company produces or hosts any kind of computer code, they can completely absolve themselves of all liability simply by including a disclaimer in the EULA/Terms of Service, even though this would never be accepted for any kind of physical product.

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

A number of years ago, I got hit with adware served via a banner ad in Yahoo Mail. Obviously Yahoo claimed it wasn’t their fault, but how did they let malware into their advertising network?
Luckily, I was able to do a system restore and I didn’t lose anything, but it was still scary to think I could lose everything on my computer because of a banner ad at Yahoo!

I immediately switched to Firefox with an ad blocker and I block 99% of ads. No more Yahoo Mail ads, no more GMail ads (even if they were relevant), and no more Facebook ads (even if some of those are relevant also). I also block ads at art sites like DeviantArt and ArtStation because I’m that distrustful of ads.

TheResidentSkeptic (profile) says:

Who has the most rights here?

The publishers right to broadcast an ad, or the users right to ignore them?

I (and many of us) are totally sick of ads 247. Particularly on "news" sites that have a forced-play 1 minute ad between each of their 15 second news clips. And many times it is the same damn ad. that* really makes me want to visit their site more often. (/s for the humor impaired)

Until they can "close the loop" and stop showing ads after a purchase has been made – they are wasting every cent of advertising money showing those ads.

And with so many stories of malware laden ads, why the hell would I want them on my screen?

Clean up that part, close the loop, and maybe I’ll stop blocking. And if you want to force me to watch ads between every news story – well guess what- one of your competitors will have the story without your ads.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Who has the most rights here?

"Until they can "close the loop" and stop showing ads after a purchase has been made – they are wasting every cent of advertising money showing those ads."

Nah, To the advertisers you have shown that you are willing to purchase from an ad, so in there thinking you need more ads not less.

ECA (profile) says:

When a site.

When A site Wont let me wonder their data, I send them a note.

Yes I use adblock, and for reasons that you Already know..
But…
I do not block 1st party adverts, FROM YOUR SITE..
If you post on your front page that YOU will be liable for ANYTHING that gets inserted onto my computer by the adverts you send to me.. I will allow them. But remember, you are LIABLE for trackers, malware, bots, and any crap that I receive..

And since you would be the FIRST site to do this, its going to be REAL hard NOT to prove anything on my computer WASNT delivered by your site.

We went thru this years ago. The virus, bots, trackers, malware, System corruption, and So forth.. At this time, I know PORN sites safer then most of the internet.

Here is a hint…MAKE YOUR OWN ADVERTS FOR the companies you like, and post them. THEN you have control of the CRAP in them. AND you will know they are written properly, and then you can COUNT all the redirects yourself, AND GET PAID MORE, then having a 3rd party get all the money.

Anonymous Coward says:

If advertisers don’t want me to install adblock/noscript on every computer I’m going to be using for a decent length of time then they shouldn’t have made annoying flash/video advertisements that autoplay with sound and used them practically everywhere. I’m afraid that the animals have long since fled that barn which later caught fire, suffered a couple tsunamis and what was left became the new latrine.

Should your website attempt to force me to whitelist you, I just question how much I really need to visit your website. The answer has always been the same.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Should your website attempt to force me to whitelist you

You can get around most of those by deleting the element from the page that contains the "glass" and interrupt notice. You need to know a little bit about HTML to do that but it’s not hard and works on most such interrupts. When it doesn’t work I just browse elsewhere; Not a problem.

Gary (profile) says:

Paid Adverts

With the new business model in the US broadband enforcing data caps and bandwidth throttling, advertisers should be paying for the extra data they use up.

Quick check of articles, seems like adverts take up 20-50% of the data on the desktop, and up to 70% on mobile devices.

Advertisers have to change their thinking in a world of data caps. They are free-riding on our limited data allowance and costing the viewers money. Ads are theft!! 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

I get 20 gig allowance on 3g data on my phone,
if i don,t block ads i will use up my battery faster,
plus i will use up data faster.
Video , audio ads use my bandwidth and slow down
page website loading.
Why should i pay to load ads i will never read or view .
Why should i pay to load ads.
Firefox has a reader mode which only shows text,
no graphics .
Youtube has the right idea , ads can be skipped after a few seconds or viewed
,if the consumer wish,s to see them.
The most annoying ads are the ones that autoplay video,s with sound
when you click on a web page .

That One Guy (profile) says:

On to step three I see

When the law is on your side, pound on the law.
When the facts are on your side, pound on the facts.
When neither the law nor the facts are on your side, pound on the table.

That they’re found themselves reduced to just making shit up show how desperate and dishonest they are. Maybe before spending huge amounts of money trying to force people to see/listen to/wait to load ads they don’t want, spend even a tiny fraction of that figuring out why adblockers are mandatory installs for anyone remotely tech savvy.

Ads are distracting, they can be noisy, they can eat up someone’s data cap(if relevant), eat up system resources, and who can forget they can be vectors of malware. That last reason alone is grounds to install an adblocker and never look back, as all it takes is one particularly nasty bit of malware and someone could find themselves out hundreds to fix/replace their computer, and that’s assuming a relatively ‘harmless’ bit of malware that ‘just’ bricks someone’s computer, rather than scoops up personal data like email/banking information.

No, if the people pushing ads want to know who to blame for making adblockers mandatory they have but to look in the mirror at the people who made those ads increasingly annoying and dangerous, but refused to take responsibility for them. In their scramble to get as much money and attention as possible they instead made their offerings so toxic that people are going out of their way to block them, and that is entirely on them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Advertising and pushing ads is the biggest mental abuse you will combat your entire life. Leave it to german advertizzer to come up with that BULLSHIT CLAIM. Thats as completely as preposterous as pharmaceutical monsters pushing laws for the pseudo science scam of statin drugs which if you study these micotoxin derivitives closely, you will understand why it is the biggest medical scam in the history of the world. Ask me what I know. I’ll tell you. Statins are killing me from the prescription I was duped into taking a decade ago.

T.I.O.E says:

Re: Re:

I totally agree with you about statins. It is important for the public to recognize that most of the "scientific" research in favor of cholesterol-lowering statins is flawed and fraudulent (read Dr. Uffe Ravnskov’s work).

The most reliable evidence has long tied statin use with memory problems, muscle disorders, liver damage, cataracts, nerve damage, arterial calcification, pancreatitis, erectile dysfunction, brain dysfunction, diabetes, and with an increased risk of cancer and higher mortality.  There are practically no, or only marginal, benefits from these toxic drugs.

The physiological mechanisms of how statins do serious damage are also well understood, such as by their impairment of oxidative cell metabolism, the increase in inflammation and cell destruction, the lowering of cholesterol and sex hormone production, the promotion of pancreatic injury, etc. – rather thoroughly explained in this scholarly article by a published author of the Orthomolecular Medicine News organization, on how statins, and a cholesterol-lowering popular diet pill advertised by Dr. Oz, promote diabetes at https://www.supplements-and-health.com/garcinia-cambogia-side-effects.html – look at Figure 7 to see how irrational it is to block the production of cholesterol!

Also, older people with HIGH cholesterol live longer than those with low cholesterol levels (see above mentioned article for numerous scientific study references confirming this). Because the cholesterol-heart disease theory, or rather medical dogma, is wrong, the use of statins is also wrong by logical extension.

The real truth is that statins have almost no real benefit in the very vast majority of users. They do more harm than good (read Uffe Ravnskov’s "The Cholesterol Myths" and Malcolm Kendrick’s "The Great Cholesterol Con"). It’s one of many "scientific" scams of the criminal mainstream medical business.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not really. Crypto miners aren’t making a copy; they’re literally stealing the work capacity of your processor by using significant amounts of scarce CPU processing power for purposes other than what you (the owner of the computer) want to be using it for, frequently to the detriment of your capability to utilize the CPU processing power for your own purposes.

That’s legit theft under even the strictest standards.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That’s… not how those miners work. They don’t take center stage on your CPU and hog all your cycles. They work in the background and wait for CPU load to drop so they can start using the leftover, otherwise unused cycles. They do this largely to remain undetected.

And the cycles happen whether you use them or not. If you’re not using them then they’re wasted, they go unused. The miner malware simply uses those wasted cycles to mine cryptocurrency.

I’m not saying these miners are a good thing. They’re still malware and their writers should suffer multiple STDs simultaneously. But they’re not "stealing" anything.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

OK, I’m going to have to drop a big [citation needed] on that. I’ve run across crypto miners a few times, and they were very noticeable very quickly by the way they redlined the CPU and made the fan scream. And I’m not aware of any way that it’s possible for ad malware to hide in the background and wait for CPU load to drop; this is JavaScript (or possibly WASM these days) code executing inside the browser’s sandbox, which deliberately does not provide access to any APIs for CPU monitoring.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Fair enough. This is one of the first links I found in a search. It lists a few methods crypto malware uses to avoid detection. Malware from ads would be more limited in stealthiness than that loaded as part of an exe.

The linked article does say, "They do steal CPU processing resources.", which I still disagree with in general but for any such malware that is using cycles that you would like to be using then I agree that is theft of resources. Those that only use cycles that would otherwise have gone to waste isn’t really theft imo.

Paul Brinker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

CPU costs power, Modern chips idle extra cores or put them in low power mode. This is why your GPU is not melting or throttling on your desktop, same with CPU. So yes, unless some agreement is made, running a javascript crypto miner for the website your on is stealing, both from the results of the miner and from your personal power bill and hardware life span.

Canuck says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Miners

"And the cycles happen whether you use them or not. If you’re not using them then they’re wasted"

Bullshit. Unused cycles don’t happen. CPU cores go to sleep (no cycling) when they’re not used. Miners keep those cores awake and consuming extra power. They heat up machines, make fans work overtime, raise your power bill and kill laptop batteries.

By comparison, if I were to download/copy some IP, like a movie, the IP owner is completely unaffected and doesn’t even know if the copying occurred.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No, there’s no theft. The web page links to code, and your browser may or may not download and run on your behalf (it being the "user agent"), depending on how you’ve configured it. Essentially everyone agrees it’s a dick move to put mining code into an ad, so let’s not resort to lies to express our contempt. Even rendering a normal ad could be called "theft" by that standard.

Junk postal mail wastes my time too, but I’m not going to argue it’s theft if an advertiser prints a maths quiz on the back—even if I can’t resist solving such quizzes—or if they ask me to visit their store.

Anonymous Coward says:

Even if if blockers, theselves, were made illegal, a tech saavy user could block them at the firewall level.

I block ads at the firewall level, and that would not be illegal, at least in the USA, because both the DMCA and No Electronic Theft Act require that it be for some kind of financial gain, meaning it has to be for the purpose of making money, and putting in the domains or IP addresses of ad severs, on your own firewall, for your own personal use, would not rise to that

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...