Court Again Sides With Ad Blockers Over Publishers (Updated)

No inherent obligation on internet users to receive ads

The Landesgericht in Hamburg has again ruled against an online publisher, finding that AdBlock Plus (AP) is a legitimate privacy tool that allows consumers to protect themselves from unwanted tracking and harmful programs. Spiegel argued the ‘whitelist’ built into the AP tool gave certain advertisers an unfair advantage (the majority of users leave the AP ‘whitelist’ enabled by default), and advertisers must pay to be included in the Whitelist.

The court found that there was no inherent obligation on internet users to receive advertisements. Where an internet user initiated blocking and had full control over what was blocked, any default settings were irrelevant – even if a user chose not to change them.

Additionally, AP did not charge all ‘whitelist’ entities. Small and medium-sized websites – about 90% of the whitelist entities – were not charged. Only operators of larger websites were required to pay. The court felt that was no impediment to Speigel. Moreover, any injuries were self-inflicted by Speigel if it chose to prevent AP users from accessing its websites altogether.
jbho: an interesting an evolving topic. This decision is consistent with a previous challenge by BILD .

Also of interest: after the BILD decision, a letter supposedly from the European Commission indicted websites that detect ad-blockers to stop their users from reading webpages could be illegal under European law.

The saga continues.

UPDATE: 20Apr2018 – the high court (BGH) affirmed lower court findings that AdBlock Plus is not anti-competitive. The court found that is there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate the adblocker disrupted the business model of a company providing free content on the Internet. AdBlock Plus did not interfere with services offered on plaintiff’s websites, and the adblocker configuration ultimately lied in the autonomous decisions of an Internet user (which could override any whitelist settings). Moreover, plaintiff was free to deny access to users using the adblocker technology. Thus, the technology did not exploit a position of power, nor did it reduce the ability of consumers (or competitors) to make informed decisions in the marketplace.

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