Legal Issues

by Glyn Moody


Filed Under:
adblocking, germany, legal

Companies:
adblock plus, axel springer



Germany's Supreme Court Confirms That Adblocking Is Legal, In Sixth Consecutive Defeat For Publishers

from the never-gonna-give-you-up dept

Adblocking is something that many people feel strongly about, as the large number of comments on previous posts dealing with the topic indicates. Publishers, too, have strong feelings here, including the belief that they have a right to make people view the ads they carry on their sites. (Techdirt, of course, has a rather different position.) In Germany, publishers have sued the makers of AdBlock Plus no less than five times -- and lost every case. It will not surprise Techdirt readers to learn that those persistent defeats did not stop the German media publishing giant Axel Springer from trying yet again, at Germany's Supreme Court. It has just lost. As Adblock Plus explains in a justifiably triumphant blog post:

This ruling confirms -- just as the regional courts in Munich and Hamburg stated previously -- that people have the right in Germany to block ads. This case had already been tried in the Cologne Regional Court, then in the Regional Court of Appeals, also in Cologne -- with similar results. It also confirms that Adblock Plus can use a whitelist to allow certain acceptable ads through.

Reuters notes that Springer's case was just the first of five against Adblock Plus to reach the Supreme Court in Germany, although the others are presumably moot in the light of this definitive decision. However, that does not mean Springer is giving up. There remains one final option:

Springer said it would appeal to the [German] Constitutional Court on the grounds that adblockers violated press freedom by disrupting online media and their financial viability.

Yes, that's right: if you are using an adblocker, you are a bad person, who hates press freedom....

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  • icon
    DB (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 10:51am

    Presumably all but the publishers see this clearly, but how could the publishers stretch "press freedom" to mean forcing people to view specific content?

    Should it be illegal to use the index in a print magazine to skip directly to a story that you want to read? Should it be legal to have a friend pull out perfume ads? What about a caregiver? What about a paid caregiver? What if I'm not actually allergic, I just don't like perfume when I'm trying to concentrate on something else?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 10:53am

    'Not giving me money is violating my freedoms!'

    Springer said it would appeal to the [German] Constitutional Court on the grounds that adblockers violated press freedom by disrupting online media and their financial viability.

    Awesome, by that standard you could argue that not subscribing to a news service, or telling someone else not to, is a violation of their 'press freedom' because it threatens their 'financial viability'.

    That they've sunk to the point of arguing the equivalent of 'felony interference with a business model' shows they are getting really desperate. If they put even a fraction of that time and money they've thrown into the six cases so far into figuring out why people are using adblockers, and maybe doing something about that, they might have a better shot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 10:57am

      Re: 'Not giving me money is violating my freedoms!'

      And before you know it MacDonalds will be suing anyone who eats at KFC or Burger King for loss of business. Or take aways and restaurant owevers suing people for loss of business when people don't go to takeaways or restaurants.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 11:16am

        Re: Re: 'Not giving me money is violating my freedoms!'

        Their conundrum will be whether to sue people using grocery stores, or the grocery stores themselves.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 10:54am

    Another blast from the past...

    weren't we calling things like "...by disrupting online media and their financial viability.." Felony Interference with a Business Model???

    Maybe the Ad Supported Media age is over?
    Maybe they didn't get the memo?
    Maybe we are sick of getting ads that come with malware?
    Maybe we are sick of full page pop-ups/pop-unders/auto play (at full volume)

    Maybe pissing off the consumers of the ads is a bad business model?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 1:15pm

      Re: Another blast from the past...

      If you don't like my ad blocker, then block me from your site.

      I will get the message and I won't come back for at least one quarter of a galactic rotation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      madasahatter (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 3:28pm

      Re: Another blast from the past...

      I think the problem is not that many object to ads per se but that ads that put our computers at risk, interfere with browsing, etc. Basically the ones you mentioned.

      The problem for most advertisers is the deliberate click through rate is dismal. Plus, Wanamaker's dictum comes into play - "Half the money spent on advertising is wasted, but you do not which half".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 4:12pm

        Re: Re: Another blast from the past...

        Personally, I don't mind ads, that is non intrusive ads, I just don't read them. Those that pop up, or take up the whole screen, or autoplay, or prevent me from doing what I want to do (read the article or view the video) or provide malware are definitely problematic. The problem is, before I visit a site, how would one know? The only safe way is to block them in advance.

        Having spent a significant amount of time here at Techdirt, I have unblocked advertising on this site. There still remains some risk that some advertising provider will slip some malware into the ads displayed here, without Techdirts knowledge. That is some potentially significant risk, but I want Techdirt to get the revenue beyond my subscriptions (yes plural, there are two). That risk still worries me.

        I am certain that Techdirt does what it can to prevent malware in its ads, but there may not be ability to ensure that, absolutely.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 2 May 2018 @ 5:58am

        Re: Re: Another blast from the past...

        There IS a problem with ads fundamentally.

        On a global scale, I would even say on a national scale, ads simply DO NOT and CAN NOT be tolerated. It is not scalable. Nor efficient. (just as the fish in efficient are not scalable)

        Every advertiser wants to get their ad in front of every human's eyeballs. That is a many-to-many connection problem that simply is intolerable. It is why people object to SPAM. If it were only one or two emails per day it would be horrible. But in fact SPAM, were it not for technical measures to stop it, would make email entirely unusable.

        The right model is to let me search for what I need. When I need house siding, or new windows, I will seek it out. I don't need irrelevant ads in front of my face.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 10:59am

    what is so frustrating about this is that the publishers wont stop refiling until they get the judge they manage to bribe sufficiently well enough to give the verdict they want! however, as has happened before in more than 1 country, when a member of the entertainment industries achieve the verdict they want at the very first trial, they move heaven and earth to stop any sort of appeal or refiling by the party that lost that original court battle! and usually the courts either continue to side with the industries or, stop any appeal dead in it's tracks! how the hell can this be called 'justice'?? it's all completely one sided and urged like this by the various governments!! anything to allow the industries to do what they want so that governments can then examine any spying done on the public!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 10:59am

    All those publishers are of course free to do as Forbes (and other sites I don't read) does and block people with ad blockers from using the site.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 1:01pm

      Re:

      I just checked www.forbes.com and it works perfectly well with uBlock Origin installed on Firefox.

      But that's probably because I have NoScript blocking their adblocker detector script.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ben S (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 6:20pm

        Re: Re:

        I decided to check the site myself. I have uBlock Origin, but not NoScript. I can still view the site, so it seems that uBlock Origin defeats their anti-adblocker script even with out NoScript.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Cowherd, 3 May 2018 @ 4:16am

      Re:

      It's an unfortunate misconception some sites have that the best response to people choosing to filter out the annoyances they try to push is to create more and better annoyances.

      In reality, it's a completely useless waste of time and money. The adblock-detection scripts are themselves added to blocklists along with the ads and that's the end of that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 11:17am

    Web sites need money to keep putting up content. They have 3 options:

    Depend on donations

    Put up a paywall

    Run ads

    At this point they have pretty much shot themselves in the ass with the ads. First the obnoxious annoying pop up/under auto play loud and intrusive BS. Then ads that contain malicious code. No one trusts them anymore to actually vet what ads run to be sure no malicious code is lurking or to be non annoying.

    Paywalls? Guess it depends on the viewer. If they think it is worth paying for the content. Of course now a days no one wants to pay for anything. TV, books, software, games can all be had for free if you know where to look.

    Donations...See above for paywalls.

    It all comes down to if the web sites had not abused their viewers in the first place they wouldn't be in this situation now.

    Hmm do you think the CATV providers are watching? Seems like they are on the same path. Abuse your customers and then cry when they won't buy your service/content

    Novel idea. Actually give your customers what they want at a reasonable price so they have no motivation to change their habits. Inertia is a powerful thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 11:36am

    Do they also think it is illegal to turn off javascript?

    Who do they think owns and operates this 'puter anyways?
    If they had purchased this computer for me they might have a say in what runs and how.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 11:41am

    one solutuon

    One solution would be to get a law passed that specifically prohibits removing ads, in much the same way that the DMCA prohibits removing DRM.

    When you think of all the special-interest laws out there, written by lobbyists and rubberstamped by legislators, it's a wonder that ad-blocking is not among them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 12:50pm

      Re: one solutuon

      That is a solution?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 2 May 2018 @ 1:24am

        Re: Re: one solutuon

        Like DRM, it's a bad solution that won't really work, and will waste a lot of both money and customer interaction - but it would sound good to those who don't understand technology or their marketplace.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Cowherd, 3 May 2018 @ 4:20am

      Re: one solutuon

      Some people are under the mistaken impression that when something is forbidden, people will stop doing it.

      Newsflash: They don't.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Christenson, 1 May 2018 @ 11:57am

    Yes, that's right: I am bad and hate press freedom...

    Yes, that's right: if you are using an adblocker, you are a bad person, who hates press freedom....

    Oh wait a minute, that freedom includes forcing me to read the output???? Why, then, of course I oppose press freedom; it's right to swing its fist has extended beyond where my nose begins!

    Now whatever happened to the idea that content was also advertising?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 1 May 2018 @ 12:03pm

    "on the grounds that adblockers violated press freedom by disrupting online media and their financial viability."

    How can anyone say that out loud with a straight face?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tom (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 12:04pm

    Dear Axel Springer, its my computer. I will block ads and scripts as needed to limit my risk of infection from malware delivered via ads and tracking scripts. If you ever decide to put your corporate bank account and the salaries of your Chief officers up as collateral against any and all damages users suffer when a ad/script served from one of your websites delivers malware, then I might reconsider.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 12:54pm

    "The RNC has a constitutionally-protected right to fill up peoples' voicemail inboxes with ringless campaign spam..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 12:55pm

    Yeah - it is illegal to stop malware from invading your machine and turning it into a spamming bot for hire. In addition, after said infection, it is illegal to unplug said purveyor of maleficence. At the same time they are considering a bill that would make you personally responsible for the malware which originates from your machine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Qwertygiy, 1 May 2018 @ 6:16pm

    Felony Interference of a Business Model

    Disrupting financial viability. That's hilarious.

    That'd be like a company suing the manufacturer of venetian blinds because people are putting them in their windows to ignore the company's flashing billboards across the street.

    That'd be like a muzak company suing the manufacturer of noise-canceling headphones because people are putting them on to ignore their radio ads when out shopping.

    That'd be like a panhandler suing me because I didn't slow down to read his sign, or a street preacher suing me because I continued a conversation on my phone instead of listening to him.

    The onus of the blocking is all on the end user. They can choose not to use the blocker in the first place. They can choose not to block a specific website or specific type of ad. And they can reverse their decision at any time. It is 100% the user saying "I dislike this content so much that I am going to go out of my way to avoid it." And there is nothing wrong with that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 May 2018 @ 2:25am

    out_of_the_blue is really not going to like this, is he?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 2 May 2018 @ 4:44am

    Five more cases. We need to donate tons to Adblock Plus (even if you don't use it like me). They are going to sue everywhere to try to drive the point via brute force. If ABP's resources dry and they can't defend themselves it's gonna be a problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 May 2018 @ 3:32pm

    I applaud techdirt for actually listening to your readers rather than declaring war on them!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Cowherd, 3 May 2018 @ 4:00am

    Next up: spammers suing people making spam filters...

    ...because its the same exact thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    tp, 4 May 2018 @ 12:49am

    Adblock is absolutely necessary

    The ad platforms were misused so badly that adblock is now absolutely necessary. Usage of web is completely impossible without adblock, when the ad platforms pushed adverticements that does horrible flickering white/black ads trying to get your attention, or playing sounds and leaving users wondering where the beeps or music is coming from. Or the download buttons in adverticements which want to trick you to pressing the ad instead of the correct file you wanted to download.

    If adverticers wouldn't misuse the ad platforms, they might get our sympathy, but the current situation is that web was completely ruined by the adverticements, and adblock is providing good service by restoring web to it's original mission of providing useful information instead of commercial programming.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2018 @ 10:33pm

      Re: Adblock is absolutely necessary

      Careful, tp. Copyright holders like you absolutely loathe adblock. You wouldn't want your MPAA buddies to think you've gone rogue...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2018 @ 6:34am

    blocking

    Its not the ads (IF they are relatively unobtrusive, if they are intrusive then no thanks) that bother me.
    My concern (and why I block many ads) is use of ad delivery networks to install malware.
    My adblocking is as malware prevention - I am just blocking off the a likely way for me to receive malware (and plenty of big name respected brand web sites have delivered malware via dubious ads)
    If ad is from same domain as site I visit and not .js driven my default settings will display it - it's the third party script stuff I am blocking, not the web site content itself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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