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Advertising Businesses The Courts

French Publishers Prepare Lawsuit Against Adblock Plus 699

HughPickens.com writes Frédéric Filloux reports at Monday Note that two groups of French publishers, the GESTE and the French Internet Advertising Bureau, are considering a lawsuit against AdBlockPlus creator Eyeo GmbH on grounds that it represents a major economic threat to their business. According to LesEchos.fr, EYEO, which publishes Adblock Plus, has developed a business model where they offer not to block publishers' advertisements for remuneration as long as the ads are judged non-intrusive (Google Translate, Original here). "Several criteria must be met as well: advertisements must be identified as such, be static and therefore not contain animation, no sound, and should not interfere with the content. A position that some media have likened to extortion."

According to Filloux the legal action misses the point. By downloading AdBlock Plus (ABP) on a massive scale, users are voting with their mice against the growing invasiveness of digital advertising. Therefore, suing Eyeo, the company that maintains ABP, is like using Aspirin to fight cancer. A different approach is required but very few seem ready to face that fact. "We must admit that Eyeo GmbH is filling a vacuum created by the incompetence and sloppiness of the advertising community's, namely creative agencies, media buyers and organizations that are supposed to coordinate the whole ecosystem," says Filloux. Even Google has begun to realize that the explosion of questionable advertising formats has become a problem and the proof is Google's recent Contributor program that proposes ad-free navigation in exchange for a fee ranging from $1 to $3 per month. "The growing rejection of advertising AdBlock Plus is built upon is indeed a threat to the ecosystem and it needs to be addressed decisively. For example, by bringing at the same table publishers and advertisers to meet and design ways to clean up the ad mess. But the entity and leaders who can do the job have yet to be found."
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French Publishers Prepare Lawsuit Against Adblock Plus

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  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @01:28PM (#48548327)
    ...as someone else will develop a list, and just a list, of hosts serving ads, and someone else will develop a plugin that can read lists of any kind to block content, with claims that the content blocked can be for adult material or any other form of objectionable content. The user will put the location of the list in to the program themselves, and they'll continue to block the content. If the list gets taken down in one place, it'll be propped-up again somewhere else, or even stale, would still be better than no list at all.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 08, 2014 @01:34PM (#48548381)

      The publishers will eventually win. Right now, it is very trivial to get adblocking working. Fire up the web browser, type in AdBlock in the "get new extensions", and it is in place.

      However, with this attack, it may not kill it, but it can force it to the edges. It is trivial to have an Adblock-blocker, or websites can use DRM extensions or just use a Flash wrapper for the site to bypass it.

      The ironic thing is that in my experience, the #1 means of attack onto networks are ads that serve malware. So, AdBlock is a security tool. I wish someone could countersue with the fact that the ad slingers either play the "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" game with the malware players, or passively don't keep their stuff secured. This forces places to have to block ads since they are such a common attack vector... be it attacking browsers, or browser add-ons like Flash or Java.

      This is going to be a battle, and it will absolutely suck for us as a whole, because eventually DRM will won. For example, the latest EA title which hasn't been cracked, or any title on XBox One or PS4 with a piracy/cheat rate of 0%. I'm not looking forward to either eventually having to sit through ads and websites demanding to install their version of Blizzard's warden to see their content... but it is coming. Viva, France!

      • This is going to be a battle, and it will absolutely suck for us as a whole, because eventually DRM will won.

        I'm not so sure in this case. Most of the web sites I value don't rely on third-party ads for their main or only income. The few that do so are expendable/replaceable. I appreciate having forums like Slashdot to discuss things on-line, but the value of news aggregation/discussion sites is in the consolidation and in the discussions and the communities -- in other words, it all comes from third-party contributions that are given freely, just like my own -- not in the site itself.

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        I don't know about you, but I refuse to install flash, and adblock is a requirement for having javascript enabled.

        OTOH, there are already a lot of sites I won't visit, so I'm clearly not a large section of their audience.

      • FlashBlock for the flash ads works great.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Blocking ads is fine. Blocking ads unless the publisher pays you for an exemption is extortion and not what I, as an ABP user, want.
    • The lists are already there -- that's what those "filter subscriptions" you set up when configuring ABP are all about. I don't know whether there are any competing plugins that don't have any direct association with anyone maintaining a list, but even if there aren't it's not exactly rocket science to develop a new one.

    • by AntEater ( 16627 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @01:42PM (#48548463) Homepage

      That was my first thought too. It would be trivial to write a script that fetches and parses the existing lists used by adblock into a nice little hosts file where everything points to 127.0.0.1.

      I don't care whose business model it wrecks, I won't expose myself to any more advertising than I have to.

      On the other hand, it may be time for me to donate to Adblock.

    • All modern OSs have this functionality BUILT IN. So all you need is a list (hosts file).
    • by itzly ( 3699663 )
      It would be simple enough for the publishers to install a proxy server on their own server to forward the ads if too many people block them through a hosts file.
    • by toejam13 ( 958243 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @02:11PM (#48548849)

      ...someone else will develop a list...

      Which is why I believe that the whole exercise is futile. Suing Eyeo is not unlike playing Whack-a-Mole. If they are forced to remove their app, others will simply take their place. Given that Ad Block has already forked development lines (see: Adblock Edge), they're already too late.

      Ultimately, websites are going to need to protect their content using JavaScript or other means. I'm already familiar with a few sites that use JS based elements that display a message after a few seconds if the ads in the page don't load (see: Fark.com). Of course, AdBlock Edge allows me to block those elements, but it wouldn't be hard to use element name randomizing techniques to thwart AdBlock Edge.

  • by RoninRodent ( 3689685 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @01:34PM (#48548389)
    They use my bandwidth (without permission) to peddle me ads for things I don't want and they think the courts should force me to look at their ads by removing my choice? I use ABP specifically because I don't want their invasive rubbish. The courts should be forcing them to ASK me if I want them using my bandwidth if anything as they are effectively stealing it.
    • by sycodon ( 149926 )

      Spot On.

      How many times have you tried to load a page only to have to wait for all the Ads to load or load a page only to have it start blasting sound while you are reading it?

      I especially like the ads that cover the whole page or cause the page to scroll the text randomly up and down while you are trying read the content, which is actually the only reason I'm at the site to begin with.

      • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @02:06PM (#48548785) Homepage

        I especially like the ads that cover the whole page or cause the page to scroll the text randomly up and down while you are trying read the content, which is actually the only reason I'm at the site to begin with.

        Bah, the content is secondary ... the purpose of the site is to sell advertising.

        They just can't figure out how to get you there without some content.

        And web sites which start playing music? That's been annoying for as long as it's been possible, and something I've had disabled for a long time.

        God, I remember the horror of terrible fscking midi songs playing on websites. Sorry, no, you deserve a kick in the head if you think your website should start playing music.

    • by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @02:03PM (#48548747)

      It seems you understand how the internet works.

      As such, I'll remind you that they don't use your bandwidth without your permission. In fact, you must request all the pages from the internet that you'd like to see. It's the primary technical argument for blocking ads -- in that you're free to do with the data you receive as you please.

      ...but don't pretend you didn't ask for that data. You know websites have ads.

      • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @02:13PM (#48548873) Homepage

        Do you have any idea of how hard it is to know all of the requests a web site is making?

        Your average user certainly doesn't know how, and you don't "request" the pages, because you usually have no way of knowing they're even involved.

        That embedded crap from scorecard research and all of those other analytics companies? Unless you're running a lot of privacy extensions you can't even know they're getting invoked.

        Just because the people who own a website include a license that says "by visiting this page you consent to all of the shady, underhanded crap we have embedded in our pages" means you're required to allow it.

        Until browsers by default give the ability to block advertising and third party stuff, it takes a fairly savvy user to know that stuff is there and to block it.

        And I don't mean the incompetently implemented blocking of 3rd party cookies in Safari which doesn't do anything. I mean real, user controllable blocking which lets the user know there's 20+ external parties who are getting told when you visit a website.

        Since I've been running things like Ghostery, Request Policy, or HTTP Switchboard ... even I am surprised at the sheer amount of tracking and other crap which is embedded in the average web page.

        But your average user? They have no frigging idea any of this stuff is there, and haven't been asked if they agree.

        • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday December 08, 2014 @02:23PM (#48548989) Homepage Journal

          Since I've been running things like Ghostery, Request Policy, or HTTP Switchboard ... even I am surprised at the sheer amount of tracking and other crap which is embedded in the average web page.

          What's really sad is how many sites completely fail to work even once you enable all the stuff you ought to be enabling. There's been six or seven products I decided not to buy in the past year because the forums don't work if you have that stuff turned on.

          • There's been six or seven products I decided not to buy in the past year because the forums don't work if you have that stuff turned on.

            Good for you. Just remember that for every one of you -- an exceptionally awkward customer who is probably more trouble than you are worth from a business perspective -- these companies are gaining useful business insights from those tools that will ultimately make them far more money then you would ever be worth to them in a lifetime. You're perfectly entitled to block things and not use their forums and decide not to buy from them, but they are just as perfectly entitled not to care.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        And adblock is just me declining to make the requests they were hoping I would make.

    • by Jawnn ( 445279 )

      They use my bandwidth (without permission) to peddle me ads for things I don't want and they think the courts should force me to look at their ads by removing my choice?

      If the content provider chooses to include ads in the stream, you are free to not use that content. The notion that making an http request implies some kind of business arrangement that carries with it certain obligations ("You must look at my ads") is absurd. Content providers are often in it for the money, so we shouldn't begrudge them their attempts at monetizing that content, but creating legislation that forces us to accept that model is, at best, misguided.

  • by some old guy ( 674482 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @01:35PM (#48548397)

    IANAL, so I'd like a tort guru to enlighten us on exactly how creation and distribution of a product (AdBlock) that that gives consumers an informed choice over another product (advertising bullshit) is an actionable case. It sounds like a water utility company suing faucet makers for making a device that restricts flow of billable water, or the electric company suing light switch manufacturers.

    • by Primate Pete ( 2773471 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @01:42PM (#48548481)
      I don't think I'll be able to understand your point without a car analogy... please help.
      • by PSXer ( 854386 )

        OK, let's say you make a car that has some sort of device that limits the amount of air that goes into the engine. Let's call this, for lack of a better term, an 'air restrictor'. Then the evil gasoline manufacturers sue the air restrictor maker for limiting the amount of gas that is consumed. The aristocrats.

    • by suutar ( 1860506 )

      It may be something about being in France that allows "messes with my business plan" to be actionable, sort of like how in the UK truth can still be defamation.

      • I don't think this has anything to do with France's laws. But since anyone can sue just by filing some papers, such suits will happen. While anyone can sue not everyone can win. These publishers have not even sued yet, they're just "preparing a lawsuit", which is an attempt to get the upperhand in negotiations.

    • IANAL, so I'd like a tort guru to enlighten us on exactly how creation and distribution of a product (AdBlock) that that gives consumers an informed choice over another product (advertising bullshit) is an actionable case.

      I'm also curious how much Eyeo opened themselves to litigation by offering a for-profit whitelist that overrides the blacklist instead of sticking just with a blacklist-only model.

      It sounds like a water utility company suing faucet makers for making a device that restricts flow of billable water, or the electric company suing light switch manufacturers.

      Or like how AT&T used to prohibit third party phones on their lines?

      The main difference here is regarding the level of exclusive ownership rights the publisher has versus the public good in relaxing those rights. Many governments have rules allowing small quotes and allowing parodies when it comes to published content. But a

    • The problem is that using ad block can kind of be compared against messing with your electricity or water meter so you aren't billed for as much. I understand that it's inherently different, because there is no agreement/requirement set up to view the ads in exchange for browsing the website they are on, but that's basically how things are set up. There's only a few ways things could work.

      First option. Web site is free to use and there are no ads. Person visiting the site is happy, but the person hosting
      • If you can't implement #2 with technical measures, you have no legal expectation of anything but #1.

        If you do #3, it doesn't mean people will accept seeing ads, or that we'd have given you revenue anyway. We might still block your damned ads.

        Most things which fall into #4 do that, AND have a crap ton of ads.

        How the site generates income isn't my problem. Your business model doesn't mean that I'm obligated to care.

        That most ads are served by 3rd party analytics companies who want to know everything you do

    • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @02:01PM (#48548723)

      I think they're claiming it's extortion, since you can pay to be removed from the block list. That might actually work (depending on how French law is), but might also be a good thing since it would mean adblockers just block everything (which would still presumably be legal).

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @01:35PM (#48548401) Homepage

    I predict these companies will try to make it illegal for users to use any form of ad blocking.

    Good luck with that.

    Greedy bastards seem to think their desire to get paid means we're legally obligated to do so.

    If your site wants to display ads, host them yourselves. But if you think I'm going to allow 3rd party trackers to support your business model, you're horribly mistaken.

  • AdBlock is clearly doing something right, and for every google action there will be equal and opposite reaction.

    If internet is called an ecosystem, then we, the small fish, have every right to the cloak of invisibility.

    The big fish forgot that the the right to spy should be consented. Of course, there are certain type of fish that does not give a damn and use all kind fishing tools, starting from targeted baits, evolving to infections and ending to the 100% filtering.

    If AdBlock will be drifted to playing bo

  • by Sir_Eptishous ( 873977 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @01:43PM (#48548491) Homepage
    Is the day I stop browsing the net.
  • I browsed the internet with ads for so many years, they didn't really bother me and the flash was blocked (but available) with flashblock.
    I finally had to give in and install Adblock Plus everywhere (even on throwaway firefox profiles) because friends rely too much on youtube for music. Then I realized that we're in the days of needing multiple gigabytes of memory for browsing, and bandwith isn't getting better (maxed out DSL lines) or even going backwards (using a wifi hotspot). The web content is huge and

    • by pr0nbot ( 313417 )

      I consider AdBlock a form of antivirus, in that ad positions are an attack vector (for random third party code injected into the page from behind some stack of brokers).

      For the same reason, I don't install free phone apps if they're ad-supported.

  • Millions of people have never heard of Ad Block Plus. Until today. I once dreamed of buying a TV ad for ABP during the Superbowl. The Streisand effect will do the job.
  • My ad block counter says it has blocked 3.7M ads. My head would have exploded if I had actually looked at 3.7M ads. Maybe there are teensie bit too many ads? So at three seconds viewing time per ad, that would be about a year's worth of full time ad viewing.

  • by eepok ( 545733 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @01:49PM (#48548559) Homepage

    I use AdBlock not because I believe no one with a website shouldn't have the opportunity to make money via advertising, but because of the METHOD of advertising.

    Flashing ads, quick movements, anything with Flash that can crash and stall my use of my browser, or any ad of more than 600 KB in size is intrusive. I don't mind being advertised at, but if you DEMAND my attention via tactics instead of attempting to CONVINCE me to buy a service or product with the facts of that service or product, then I will turn off and walk away.

    Example of good Slashdot-based advertising for me: "Newegg - 15% off orders $25 - $100. December 8 ONLY. We know there's a couple things you've been meaning to buy. Be smart about it and buy them now. CLICK HERE to apply coupon." The coupon could take effect only via clicking in from Slashdot.

    Also, I pay for my bandwidth and if you want to advertise to me, cool. Just don't take liberties with the size of your advertisement. Keep it small. Maybe a 2-3 frame gif changing every 20 seconds.

    Lastly, I don't like the tracker cookies. I know some people say that tracking one's surfing habits enables more relevant ads to be used, but I don't like being tracked at all. Why not just use advertisements relevant to the site content? It's Slashdot -- post tech stuff. Slashdot builder? Then push 3D printer filaments.

    As a result of some really BADvertisers, no one gets to put advertisements in front of my web-surfing eyes. I don't even know if a site has changed to less-obtrusive ads unless they tell me. (And if they do, I turn off AdBlock.) It's as simple as that.

    • Also significant: of the last three virus infections I've had, all originated from malicious ads, two of them on sites that I considered trustworthy (one I had specifically exempted from Adblock).

  • by allquixotic ( 1659805 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @01:53PM (#48548615)

    There's really no other rational choice than to block most/all ads, in a world where ads can do just about anything they want. The annoyance and performance slowdown are trivial issues compared to the real problems. The same openness that allows Web-based ads to track you using cookies, launch plugins and pop-up windows, and prevent you from viewing content until you watch a video or wait some time, also (fortunately) allows users to fight back as a natural defense mechanism against these predatory tactics. For the advertisers to abuse this openness for their own personal monetary gain, while presuming to control what *I* run on *my* computer, while being appalled at my choice of doing the same, is ridiculous and contradictory.

    Far and away the gravest problem with ads today is that the vast majority of them pose *serious* security and/or privacy issues. Most ad networks do very little to prevent bad actors from embedding malicious content that tries to exploit browser zero-days, steal cookies, track your behavior, or trick you into visiting malicious websites. Until website owners and ad networks decide to completely purge all the security and privacy risks, advertising is essentially synonymous with an opportunistic attack on each user who visits an ad-infested site.

    On the open web, the only way advertisers are going to get any revenue is through earning the trust and goodwill of their customers. And we ARE customers -- customers who are currently being treated like shit. How would you like it if a car salesman walked up to you and started giving you a tattoo on the arm with the manufacturer's logo, seconds after you get out of your car and step foot on the lot? That kind of intrusive behavior should not be tolerated. And it isn't: users are doing exactly what the advertisers should expect them to do, given how they are being treated.

    Ad networks should start by having a manual screening process for each entity that wants to submit ads through their network. The integrity, ownership, and status of each entity should be scrutinized to ensure that they are a legitimate business and are registered with the proper authorities. Additionally, the network should perform constant random sampling of their current ads being run, and employ experienced security auditors or penetration testers to examine the source code and other dynamic behavior of the advertisement payload on various popular browsers, to determine if it is tracking the user or malicious in any way. If it is, all further business with that partner should be stopped immediately, and the advertisement removed from the network. Website owners and users should not be the ones having to push the ad networks to remove these abusers.

    The open Web is not going away. Users are in control of what displays in the web browser. Advertisers must either learn to work within a system of reasonable rules that do not attack users' systems or try to compromise their privacy, OR just keep fighting until their revenue stream is slowly strangled to death by their own despicable policies.

  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @01:54PM (#48548637) Journal

    Seriously, I *work* for a communications marketing company, and still, I think the whining and gnashing of teeth over plug-ins like ABP is misplaced!

    You can't realistically expect to stop people from blocking your ads with software any more than you can stop people from pressing "mute", channel change buttons, or just the "on/off" switch on the television when commercials come on!

    The truth is, ad banners, pop-ups, pop-unders, animated page overlays and the rest of it are just distractions. If you create one that's minimal enough so most people can't be bothered to actively use a tool like ABP to filter it? Then you've probably just made an ineffective advertisement that people aren't even paying attention to in the first place. Advertisers who "get" this and have worked hard to build more effective ads are prompting people to "fight back" with these blocking tools. The takeaway we probably all SHOULD be getting from this is that this form of marketing isn't a very good one.

    The fact that many site operators out there can barely make enough revenue to cover their costs of hosting means there's a strong interest in keeping the current business model in place and pretending it works. But truthfully, I think things would work out far better if marketers would agree to sponsor web sites likely to have an audience interested in one of their products. Just flat out pay their hosting for them, in exchange for the site making it clear your company is doing that for them. THEN you'd win the respect of the userbase and generate good P.R. and sales.

  • Just like the LimeWire lawsuit ended music piracy, right? Its so much easier to cling to a bad marketing model for dear life and sue anyone who gets in your way. Of course, contrary to their beliefs most of my own clients didn't even know what adblock was until I recommended it. I suppose while they're at it they should sue Microsoft, too, for introducing their own content blocker and opt-out do-not-track requests which uses the same lists as adblock.

    IMO, win or lose they won't survive any longer for it.
  • It has apparently never occurred to publishers to band together and fund the creation of a system for buying content at dirt cheap prices using something like ACH transfers to keep the transaction costs low. How about a one-click purchase model where you pay $0.50/article or $3 for all content published that day? Nah, couldn't do that. That would require someone to say "this isn't working, let's try finding a new way to sell this stuff."

    The reality, though, is that you'd never get them to realize that openi

    • by Animats ( 122034 )

      It has apparently never occurred to publishers to band together and fund the creation of a system for buying content at dirt cheap prices using something like ACH transfers to keep the transaction costs low. How about a one-click purchase model where you pay $0.50/article or $3 for all content published that day?

      It's been tried. Nobody bought. Except for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, no news outlet adds enough value that people will pay for it.

  • I run all my desktop browsers with ABP. I thought I never click on Google Ads, however recently I checked the history of my primary Google account and was very surprised to find that I had, and not just a few times, many times, and on things I had been interested in.

    You can see your own history through Google's History site: Google History for Ads [google.com]. It's pretty interesting. I don't know how they're getting me, but I assume it's on my phone. In any case, it's been so subtle (and useful) that I am in no way up

  • There's a local (well, national) newspaper that I read frequently. They implemented a paywall (five free articles / month) few years ago - it's trivial to bypass, naturally, clearing out cookies or using "porn mode" does the trick, but why bother, a simple ABP rule works. However, in doing so the comments are hidden as well. Most of the time this is entirely positive, but I guess I have some masochistic tendencies; when there's a really controversial (or bound to wake up the retards) topic, I sometimes like

  • by AntEater ( 16627 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @02:22PM (#48548971) Homepage

    It's a different web without adblock, and it's not pretty one. It does more than just hide advertisements, it also reduces bandwidth usage considerably. I've been using adblock since I was stuck on dialup. It was critical to me back then to make pages load faster. Then I was on satellite and adblock helped keep me under my data allotment. On the rare occasion that I have to use a computer without it, I'm always taken back by how bad the web is with all the ads. According to some estimates, we're exposed to over 3000 marketing messages every day, on average. I'm all for anything that reduces that number, whatever it actually is. Every person that I show Adblock to, has been very, very happy with the results.

  • by qubezz ( 520511 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @05:25PM (#48550465)
    The part of this article that has not been mentioned yet is that the developer of Adblock Plus (forked from the original Adblock) has decided to take money in exchange for allowing "non-intrusive" advertising through its lists, pretty much against the interests of it's users who don't want any ads. This puts them directly in the line of fire when media publishers get irate enough to sue, as advertisers see them as a blackmailer. You can see the whitelist of allowed sites here: https://easylist-downloads.adb... [adblockplus.org] - along with Google and it's Doubleclick network, other notables and other publishers and trackers not easily recognized have paid up. Adblock Plus got the install base and trust, then they change the arrangement.
  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Monday December 08, 2014 @06:28PM (#48550987) Homepage Journal

    A buggy whip.

    Simply because a product threatens your business doesn't mean you are entitled to get it legislated out of existence.

    AdBlock puts out a product that saves people bandwidth and filters out all sorts of noxious, potentially dangerous content.

    However, there ARE ways around AdBlock. At the root of it, your ads simply CANNOT utilize any of the aforementioned noxious, potentially dangerous means to FORCE views.

    If this breaks your business model?

    Get a better fucking business model, as the one you're using now sucks.

    Also, end users VOLUNTARILY install AdBlock. It isn't a default install anywhere. So these are people who have made a choice NOT to accept traffic from your crappy ad network. AdBlock didn't FORCE their product on ANYONE. Again, you don't have a right to force people to view your content.

Do not meddle in the affairs of troff, for it is subtle and quick to anger.

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