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: ad blocking, adblock, copyright, germany
Companies: adblock, axel springer, eyeo


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  1. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 10 Apr 2019 @ 12:54pm

    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.


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