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Ad Blocking – a Coming Legal Battleground? 686

An anonymous reader writes "Computerworld asks: What will happen if big advertisers declare AdBlock Plus a clear and present danger to online business models? Hint: it will probably involve lawyers. From the article: 'Could browser ad blocking one day become so prevalent that it jeopardises potentially billions of dollars of online ad revenue, and the primary business models of many online and new media businesses? If so, it will inevitably face legal attack.'"
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Ad Blocking – a Coming Legal Battleground?

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  • Short answer: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 23, 2012 @05:34PM (#42076837)

    No. People who block ads do not click ads anyway, and as long as adblock is opt-in, this will never, ever be a problem.

  • Nonsense (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 23, 2012 @05:35PM (#42076843)
    A legal attack on what grounds? That "we're not getting the profits we have a God-given right to"?
  • Google ads (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 23, 2012 @05:37PM (#42076867)

    Google ads are always completely irrelevant and annoying. It is about time businesses start thinking about a real business model instead of annoying people with ads.

  • No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 23, 2012 @05:39PM (#42076891)

    "There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back."

    Robert A. Heinlein

  • Re:Short answer: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by robot5x ( 1035276 ) <robot5xNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday November 23, 2012 @05:43PM (#42076923)
    but you're seeing things from an end-user perspective. Businesses and lawyers see things from a... business and money-making perspective. In that respect, the answer can actually only be "yes".

    There are many examples of the legal system being used to preserve outdated and irrelevant business models that quite clearly fly in the face of expressed consumer demand (RIAA anyone?). This looks like it won't be any exception, unfortunately.
  • Slashdot's anti-ad rhetoric aside, content creators or rights holders have a right to monetize if they want to -- just as content consumers have a right to bypass that content. Everyone has a choice and everyone has other options.

    Right now, the easiest path for those who want to skip ads is also the best-of-both-worlds path: You can consume the content you want *and* avoid the ads. Eventually, some (maybe a few, maybe many) content creators will simply not serve content unless they have confirmation that their monetization vehicle was served as well. Some sites will die because it turns out there are other options -- and many will thrive because people need what they've got.

    If it *does* become a legal battleground, it'll be less about the macro and more about the micro. No one gives a fuck if there's one less or one more eyeball on some half-baked 9gag clone serving up commoditized CPM advertising. But a social-media ad that's relevant to maybe 100 people in the whole country? Advertisers -- and their attorneys -- damned well care if they're losing significant percentages on those hyper-targeted buys, which often carry a premium.

  • by Kethinov ( 636034 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @05:47PM (#42076947) Homepage Journal

    Yep, exactly. Preventing ad block from working is quite easy to do. Most sites don't bother because only a small minority does it and that small minority tends to be disproportionately made up of the kooky anti-consumerist crowd anyway, who aren't worth advertising to due to their hatred of advertising in general. If ad blocking ever went mainstream you'd see more sites tying content to ads explicitly.

  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @05:51PM (#42076973)

    I've run across a few sites here and there that won't display any content unless I disable ad-blocking. I'm surprised this isn't more prevalent.

    I have too, and I never go there again.

    I whitelist sites that I think are worth reading and don't have obnoxious animated or too-numerous ads (I turn it off, hit reload, and see if it's stupid or not).

    But if you're going to outlaw adblocking plugins, you'd better outlaw the hosts file, too.


  • Re:No. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @05:51PM (#42076977)

    No. 99 percent of people don't bother blocking ads and 90 percent don't even know that you can block ads. This is a ridiculous question to ask, especially since ad blocking has been around for so many years with solutions ranging from a custom hosts file to browser plugins and built-in adblock (opera).


    I'm very computer literate, I could block ads, but I don't. Why not?

    a) I can't be bothered to invest the time in downloading the software, deploying it and doing whatever else is required.

    b) I'm just not that bothered by ads. I know some Slashdotters go ape-shit bananas if even one ad for Capital One or Ford slips in, but I'm like 'meh' - I just tune them out - And from time to time I'm even served up an ad for something I'm interested in.

    c) I accept that ads are the price for nifty free content online.

  • Re:Short answer: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 23, 2012 @05:54PM (#42077011)

    The problem is, websites cannot easily detect if the user has ad-block deployed for their site.

    The fair way to solve this problem, is that the site should be able to first query the client if ad-blocking is deployed, and, if so, then decide whether it wants to deploy content or not. Fair for both sides.

    Step #1: User clicks on a link.

    Step #2: Web site shows mostly blank image, requesting that user first whitelist this site from ad-blocking, then hitting refresh once done

    Step #3: User decides if the site is worth white-listing. If so, then follows the procedure. If not, finds something else to do.

  • by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @06:03PM (#42077091) Homepage

    Most sites don't bother because only a small minority does it and that small minority tends to be disproportionately made up of the kooky anti-consumerist crowd anyway, who aren't worth advertising to due to their hatred of advertising in general. If ad blocking ever went mainstream you'd see more sites tying content to ads explicitly.

    Perhaps they don't bother because the cost of entering an arms race would be too high. If any major site were to block adblock users, you would expect the plugin to quickly route around their attempts.

  • Re:Short answer: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by magic maverick ( 2615475 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @06:10PM (#42077141) Homepage Journal

    It's already sort of possible.

    Except that it's more like:
    Step 1. User loads page.
    Step 2. Page uses JavaScript to display page.
    Step 3. I go elsewhere, because frankly, fuck 'em.
    Step 4. Anyone else who doesn't have JS enabled does the same.
    Step 5. JS can be used to detect whether external ads are loading or not, and block those that don't load external ads.

    I don't have an ad blocker. I use Request Policy to block external requests (and whitelist and temporary whitelist if I want external content in a web page). This blocks most ads by default, without any extra work on my part. I also use NoScript. This blocks more ads, especially as I'm not about to whitelist the ad domains. I finally use a cookie manager that blocks cookies by default (and I whitelist certain domains).

    The only ads I see are the ones that don't use JS, and are served from the same domain as the website I'm viewing. Though I was certainly thinking about blocking a moving graphic ad recently...

    So, yeah, websites can detect if you have JS enabled, and use that to detect if ads are being displayed. And I'll say fuck you to the parasites and find my sources of entertainment, news, and community elsewhere. I'd be perfectly happy if all ad supported websites went out of business (I'm not counting those that have ads for their own products though, just those with ads from external sources). Just like if broadcast TV were to go elsewhere because everyone skipped the ads, I wouldn't care at all either.

  • Re:Short answer: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by innocent_white_lamb ( 151825 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @07:24PM (#42077741)

    Advertising is always obnoxious no matter how subtle it's done.
    I own a small movie theatre and advertise what's playing and what's coming with a webpage and an email mailing list.
    People actively seek out and view the webpage hundreds of times per day, and I have a fair number of people who have signed up to receive automatic notifications of what's playing when I have a confirmed booking for a new movie.
    I don't think that my advertising is "obnoxious", since it's information that people are actually searching for and obviously want to receive.

  • Re:Short answer: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrbcs ( 737902 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @07:59PM (#42077997)
    Am I the only one that uses a hosts file? Takes care of more than just ads.

    It's to the point now that when I see ads, I'm shocked. I've had them blocked for years.

    They may be able to stop adblock, but good luck trying to outlaw a hosts file.

  • Re:Short answer: (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @08:21PM (#42078173)

    I don't think that my advertising is "obnoxious", since it's information that people are actually searching for and obviously want to receive.

    I think Parent was referring to unrequested advertising. You're reaching out to a pre-qualified constituency that seeks out you and your service - not putting ads on Slashdot or Google where people who couldn't care less are forced to view it. It's the difference between "pull advertising" and "push advertising" - the former is necessary and convenient, while the latter is often obnoxious and unwelcome.

  • Re:Short answer: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ldobehardcore ( 1738858 ) <steven,dubois&gmail,com> on Friday November 23, 2012 @09:42PM (#42078729)

    As to revenue generation, I'm more often seeing good websites put up "shameless commerce divisions" nobody goes to a website wanting to get spammed with 3rd party ads, but I'm sometimes elated to see a cool tshirt or neat plushie being sold by the site itself. That may not be quite as profitable, but it's a much less aggravating way to be advertized to, and has much better relevance overall.

    BoingBoing's shop comes to mind. It's benefitting a site I like, while not constantly being spammy

  • Re:Short answer: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by innerweb ( 721995 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @10:24PM (#42078943)
    How about users sue advertisers for gumming up their internet bandwidth, raising the cost of service and slowing down their performance. Many ad burdened pages have loading issues, and eat up extra bandwidth. Many sites I have never returned to due to the ads on the site. Here is another hint for marketers.. It is a smart medium where most of the people not on a few of the service (facebook, mypage, etc.) are intelligent users who are not going to fall for the ad game as normal. Many left TV for the same reason your ads do not work on us the way you expect. Yes, many of us remember the names we are bombarded with. Many of us refuse to buy those products as well. Call it counter culture, or just being fed up with corporatism and consumerism's worst aspects. Whatever it is, it is. Your lies and deceit has been planted and this is your harvest.
  • by Peaceful_Patriot ( 658116 ) <michelle@NOsPaM.goldnuggetwebs.com> on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:49AM (#42079895) Homepage
    I have several websites which have been up for well over a decade and are highly rated. Last year I was laid off my job and for the first time, started putting Google ads on my pages. I'm making a few hundred dollars per month from them. Yes, people do click on ads that interest them. I use only ads which are related to the subject of the page. I try hard not to annoy my visitors, no pop ups, pop unders, no ads in the text, no flashing obnoxiousness. No tracking.

    I am embarrassed to admit that I use an adblock myself. I felt hypocritical so I turned it off for awhile. OMG. I had forgotten how bad it could be out there. I certainly don't blame my visitors for using an adlocker. I try not to punish those who don't.

    Generally, the webmaster decides where and what type of ads will display. Blaming the advertisers is off base as they make a variety of ad sizes and types available but the webmaster chooses how far he goes with them. Perhaps try writing an email to the webmaster telling them that you find their site too annoying to visit again.
  • by Tom ( 822 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @09:15AM (#42081107) Homepage Journal

    It's about whether the author/publisher of the original work containing the link to the ads has the right to demand you view the ads that pay him if you view his work, or whether your right to cut out the ads and only view the remainder takes precedence.

    That's easy to answer.

    He doesn't.

    He does have the right to distribute his work under his own terms. He does not have a right to determine how I consume said work. He can try to force me through technological means, but not through legal means.

    If you want to make sure you are paid for your work, there is already a system we have in place for doing so, it's called selling it, aka taking my money before you give me your product. It's really simple, it works, and it is quite common.

  • by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @12:12PM (#42081809)

    The animated crap isn't the only problem. Another problem is the potential for malware. As long as $TRUSTED_SITE sells generic ad space to $USUALLY_REPUTABLE_ADVERTISING_COMPANY who accepts ads from $NAIVE_BUSINESS that's been hacked by $EVIL_CRACKERS, or for that matter doesn't do enough checking and accepts ads from $SHADY_COMPANY, running any ad executables is going to be dangerous. My wife got a computer infected from the New York Times. I assume they've done some work on making sure it doesn't happen again, but it's going to be something of a contest between screening methods and sneaky black hats, and if anybody in the chain decides not to protect you by not accepting money from an advertiser, you can be in trouble.

    I don't use ABP. The ads haven't bothered me enough. I do use NoScript.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain