Adblock Plus victorious again in court versus publishers arguing users should not be allowed to block ads and deprive them of revenue
Adblock Plus, which claims to be the most popular ad blocking tool, has been victorious again in court versus publishers who took out lawsuits against its owner company Eyeo demanding that users should not be allowed to legally block ads on their sites.
German broadcasters RTL Interactive and ProSiebenSat1's lawsuit argued that users should not be able to block ads on their websites and that Adblock Plus should not be able to offer its Acceptable Ads Policy, whereby large publishers have to adhere to a series of standards and sometimes pay hefty fees in order to be white-listed from its blocking service. Even then, users can still choose to block all ads.
But a court in Munich on Wednesday ruled in favor of Adblock Plus owner Eyeo, according to a press release sent out by the company. A spokesperson for the court confirmed the ruling to The Guardian and in a statement added that because users choose to download Adblock, and that it doesn't have enough dominance in the market to stifle the majority of publishers' ad revenues, that the ad blocking software is not anti-competitive.
That's another setback for publishers and sellers of online advertising such as Google. One of the most litigious countries in the world has once again ruled that ad blocking is legal. And this at a time when ad blocking is on the rise — the number of people with ad blockers installed worldwide was up 70% year on year in 2014, according to PageFair and Adobe. Adblock Plus itself claims to have 50 million active users.
Eyeo, which is based in Cologne, says in the e-mailed release: "We are elated at the decision reached today by the Munich court, which is another win for every internet user. It confirms each individual’s right to block annoying ads, protect their privacy and, by extension, determine his or her own internet experience. This time it also confirms the legitimacy of our Acceptable Ads initiative as a compromise in the often contentious and rarely progressive world of online advertising."
Meanwhile, a ProSiebenSat1 sent Business Insider this statement: "Today is also a sad day for internet users, because AdBlock Plus jeopardizes the financing options for all free internet sites. We still feel it is inadmissible under copyright and antitrust laws, and it is an anti-competitive attack on media diversity and freedom of the press. Therefore, we will review the options for appeal and further legal action against Eyeo.”
RTL sent Business Insider this statement: "We are weighing a possible course of action against the ruling and assessing the prospects of an appeal."
The ruling comes a month after Adblock Plus was victorious in a court in Hamburg against German publishers Zeit Online and Handelsblatt who had challenged Eyeo's right to accept ads from the web.
This is now the fourth time publishers have brought legal proceedings against Eyeo, but in each case the courts have sided with the ad blocking company. Another suit, brought by German publisher Axel Springer (which is also an investor in Business Insider) is still ongoing in a court in Cologne.
The argument against ad blocking is that it takes advertiser money out of the system and forms an existential threat to the publishers who rely on advertising revenue to present their content to users for free. Publishers have also been critical of the way ad blocking companies like Eyeo charge big publishers and companies like Google and Amazon in order to be whitelisted.
Speaking with Business Insider earlier this month, Ben Williams, Adblock Plus operations and communications manager, made the case for ad blockers, saying: "Ad blocking is a symptom of bad ads. Newspaper ads, magazine ads, and TV there is a level of acceptance to a degree. But these transferred one-by-one over to the digital space, and that didn't work out so well. Click-through-rates and the money people were getting back from impressions fell under a while. And the response was to just make more ads."
Earlier this month AdBlock Plus launched its first mobile browser, which will automatically block ads.
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