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German Supreme Court Rules Ad Blockers Legal (faz.net) 134

New submitter paai writes: The publishing company Axel Springer tried to ban the use of ad blockers in Germany because they endanger the digital publishing of news stories. The Oberlandesgericht Koln (Germany's Higher Regional Court of Cologne) followed this reasoning and forbade the use of ad blockers on the grounds that the use of white lists was an aggressive marketing technique. [The business model allows websites to pay a fee so that their "non aggressive" advertisements can bypass AdBlock Pro's filters. Larger companies like Google can afford to pay to have the ban lifted on their website.] The Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice or BGH) destroyed this court ruling today and judged that users had a right to filter out advertisements in web pages.
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German Supreme Court Rules Ad Blockers Legal

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  • by Falos ( 2905315 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @06:57PM (#56468187)

    > they endanger the digital publishing of news stories

    So do eyelids. You can offer whatever content you want. That's it. That's all you can do online: Offer. Whether it's a credential-restricted content (ie premium) or simply open pages, the viewer decides whether to access. The viewer decides whether to subscribe, literally (paywall) or figuratively. Can't force buyers, can't force viewers.

    Whether the selective mechanism is eyeballs or software is irrelevant.

    • by aevan ( 903814 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @07:28PM (#56468347)
      This just in: East Texas Court rules blinking to be theft. Mandates lid speculum integration while using a browser.
    • To be fair their argument wasn't quite that stupid. They claimed that the pages were copyrighted works (true) and that ad-blockers were altering them, transforming them into a new unlicenced work. Kinda like if someone took a print magazine, stuck masking tape over all the adverts and sold it on as their own version.

      A key point is that AdBlock Plus does actual profit from blocking ads. It takes money from advertisers to whitelist their ads and offers consultation services. So the transformed work has commercial value.

      But as the court noted, this technology is different. The browser is under no obligation to render a page a certain way, and in fact often overrides the publisher's wishes with the user's preferences. Larger fonts, high contrast mode, text to speech etc. Disable image loading was a basic feature right back in the Mozaic browser days.

      Plus there are many examples of similar technologies, such as the fast forward button on a DVR, the auto-volume limit system on a TV, earplugs, 3D glasses with two left lenses, photocopiers and the like.

  • Of course it is (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 19, 2018 @06:57PM (#56468189)

    What makes someone think they have a *right* to run their code (JS) on my machine without my explicit permission?

    Would they allow me to run my own arbitrary code on their computers? Why not?

  • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @06:59PM (#56468203)

    Website operator: If you don't like folks blocking your ads, it's perfectly fine for you to refuse to serve them up your data.. It would be nice if you let me know why, but it's up to you.

    Browsing user: You are free to decide what to block and what to accept.

    I get hit by this all the time... "We detect you are running an add blocker...." Followed by a plea to turn it off... If I want the content from your site, I'll let your ads display.. But my ad blocker stays on by default and if you don't provide enough value to make it worth pausing my blocker for you, I suggest you may not be in business very long anyway.

    Why did we need to tie this up in court? It was a waste of time and money doing that.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      FYI: Websites usually don't bother to actually "detect" that you're using an ad blocker.

      How it works: The website's static content is the message claiming that they detected that you're using an-ad blocker, and then javascript served from an adblocked domain alters the page to hide the message. (User thinks: "OMG! They know!")

      • Doesn't matter to me how they do it or even if they know or not.. If I don't think their content is worth the effort, they won't be sending me anything..

      • If that were true, you could just reload the page without pausing your adblocker. This does not work.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @09:28PM (#56468773)

      A large German news site (Der Spiegel) recently tried that aggressively. My response was to basically stop reading it. After a few weeks they went back to the old scheme, which tells me they were bleeding traders.

      • Heh, same here. I have blocked the Spiegel completely.
        They've actually sued together with Axel Springer. Suits them right if they are willingly cooperating with the fucking Bild.

        • by gweihir ( 88907 )

          They participated in that? Thanks, I did not know that. May decide to drop them after all....

    • It is a german tabloid. They added a script (possibly server side) so that if you have an ad blocker they don't serve the page (well they serve the page then show a blank page with "why I don't see that page").
    • More sites are doing that and blick content if they notice adblockers.

      • by joh ( 27088 )

        They are totally entitled to do that. I just close the tab then and go elsewhere, but I agree that they are free to deal with that this way. No problem. They don't want me to read their content and want me to never return, OK. I mean, they STILL don't earn money with my eyeballs.

        What I never do though is disabling my ad blocker for them then.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      At this point asking you to turn off your ad-blocker is worse than asking you to turn off your anti-virus software just to install an emoji pack. It's an insane risk, not just of malware but of being tracked, having audio blasted at you, of having your bandwidth and battery wasted...

      Even if you promise to be good today, what guarantee is that there you won't turn evil tomorrow?

    • It's not worth it to allow the ads even if you like the content. What are you going to do when there's an exploit script in the ads that installs some ransomeware? It takes just one time and your system could be compromised.
  • It's pollution. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @07:01PM (#56468209)

    I posit that advertisements are simply a form of information pollution. Instead of getting just the information you want, that information is polluted with contaminated by the inclusion of advertisements. There is a far better argument to be made for outlawing unrequested advertisements than there is for forcing people to see them.

    • It's real pollution. Those ads chew up processing power on the client, and transmission power over the network.
    • Its worse then that.

      Ads have ZERO respect for your:

      * Time
      * Space
      * Money
      * Power
      * Scenery -- how many fucking billboards do we need visually polluting our spaces??

      I'm almost of the opinion that:

      Corporate ads are immoral.

      The sooner we ban these fuckers the less corporate bullshit distractions have to put up with.

      I can see the future going one of two ways:

      * Corporations data-mine the fuck out of you, everything fucking place you go -- blasting these ads to you the instant you step foot in a corporate space
      * Or

      • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

        I think they're also immoral because they sell a lifestyle that is an unobtainable fantasy and the attempted attainment of that lifestyle is psychologically and ecologically and sometimes physically destructive. Unfortunately they're successful enough in their brain-washing that the majority of people are affected and can't see the wood for the trees.

      • * Scenery -- how many fucking billboards do we need visually polluting our spaces??

        That's actually one of the beautiful things about Hawaii. When I visited there were ZERO billboards anywhere. It was lovely. Now I haven't seen the entire state but I've been all over Oahu and didn't see a single one.

        BTW you forgot about having zero respect for your Privacy. I have zero interest in being tracked around the internet by advertising companies.

  • by GerryGilmore ( 663905 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @07:02PM (#56468213)
    Lynx! No ads, no funky JS/whatever....Yeah, baby!!!
    • by Seahawk ( 70898 )

      An even better solution would be to send actual feral Lynx' to advertisers - that would make them stop pretty quickly!

  • Still (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @07:08PM (#56468239) Journal
    the computer owned by the user. The user still has control over their computer and browser :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Less and less true everyday. The HW is yours (for now) the firmware and software are licensed.

    • Which is why everyone is making an app for everything these days.....

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So the source link won't let me read the article.....because I have ad block running. Ironic.

    • There is no perfect solution.

      In this case, NoScript + ABP and the article comes up fine, if in German.

      But really, if you are blocking ads for safety, why are you still running scripts?

  • by EzInKy ( 115248 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @07:13PM (#56468253)

    I can't think of any reason they wouldn't be. After all, my computer is my property, not yours.

  • We need ad blocker blockers! And ad blocker blocker blockers!
  • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @07:23PM (#56468307) Homepage Journal

    The Oberlandesgericht Koln (Germany's Higher Regional Court of Cologne)

    I'm guessing this is the perfect court to raise a stink about ad blockers.

  • Irrelevant (Score:4, Insightful)

    by duke_cheetah2003 ( 862933 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @07:27PM (#56468339) Homepage

    Lawful or not, I am going to employ the most aggressive ad-blocking setup I can get my hands on. Try and stop me.

  • by ffkom ( 3519199 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @07:28PM (#56468349)
    there would be no ad-blockers.

    For the younger of the readers: When stuff was published on paper, publishers of course took responsibility for the whole of their publication, includings advertisements. If you wanted to publish an ad, you had to go through the publisher's ad department. You could not just book a slot from some 3rd-party, and have them deliver a bag of Anthrax spores or poo-poo with every newspaper.

    Of course web sites could still take responsibility, and publish just still images integrated into their layout, served from their servers. But they opted to let others annoy you with all kinds of malware and distraction - and now they get punished as deserved.
    • On the other gand, if it were possible to block the ads in magazines, newspapers, on billboards, clothing and on every item i buy, I would.

      I already black out or remove the branding on my monitors and other things if possible and buy clothes without branding on them.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        On the other gand, if it were possible to block the ads in magazines, newspapers, on billboards, clothing and on every item i buy, I would.

        It's not hard. Either some black marker pen, some paper and glue, or a pair of scissors will easily remove the ads from magazines and newspapers. Billboards are harder and generally fall on private property, so painting those is harder. But you are free to block ads in newspapers and magazines, and it's quite easy to do so.

        Anyhow, what I see happening on some sites is th

        • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Friday April 20, 2018 @06:26AM (#56470157)

          The removal needs to be done by a third party for the magazines and newspapers. Technically possible. Not realistic.

          Or to say it with the words of Banksy:

          People are taking the piss out of you everyday.
          They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you're not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else.
          They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you. You, however, are forbidden to touch them.

          Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity. Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It's yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

          You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don't owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you.
          They never asked for your permission, don't even start asking for theirs.

      • I already black out or remove the branding on my monitors and other things if possible and buy clothes without branding on them.

        That's crazy. I have no objection to companies putting their logo or name on what they have made, as long as it is not over-obtrusive, and that is not what we a talking about here.

        It is useful to know who made your stuff : for example I buy a pair of walking boots and they fall apart after 3 months, so I check the maker's name and don't buy them again. OTOH another pair is lasting fine after a year (I use boots heavily) so I note the name and buy them next time. I'm not talking about big fashion brands B

  • They should be viewed in the same way Anti-Virus software is. Especially in today's Ad-verse.
    Few of the sites place their own ads. It's mostly 3rd party ad services. It's a crazy bidding process for a lot of companies on both the ad seller end and the display side. There's plenty of broken, abusive or malware infested ads that pop up even with the big player ad services.
    People should almost be required to block them.
    I don't mind ads. if they aren't interstitials, don't autoplay video, don't cause 4 cor

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'd go as far as to say if you have an adblocker you don't need antivirus.

  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @07:41PM (#56468415) Homepage Journal
    If you are using an ad blocker you are STEALING! Look at all this great content! Where do you think it comes from? Everyone should be forced to watch 1-2 hours of mandatory advertising per day in order to support the content creators!
    • You left out the God-given right of website operators to use 95% of your CPU to mine $coin...

  • Because in addition to blocking ads I block JavaScript.

  • ....because I have An Ad blocker on. The Irony of it all...

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @09:23PM (#56468749)

    The translation "Supreme Court" is misleading. The BGH is the second highest German court. The highest one is the BVG, the Bundesverfassungsgericht, i.e. the court deciding things regarding the German constitution. The BHG is however the highest court you can come up to using appeals for concrete things. The BVG only takes constitutional stuff and may decide to ignore you.

    • If we are going to nitpick, it is actually the BVerfG, not the BVG, simply because there is also the Bundesverwaltungsgericht, that would have the same initials otherwise ;-)

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )


  • We know know how to find the best value, and its quite easy.
    • by Mandrel ( 765308 )
      Could you please explain how.
  • by enz ( 744942 ) on Friday April 20, 2018 @01:06AM (#56469457)
    This ruling was made by the German Federal Court of Justice, which is the highest court unless questions of constitutionality are involved. The plaintiff claimed that this is the case and announced that they will now go to the German Federal Constitutional Court. So the ruling could still be overthrown.
    • they will now go to the German Federal Constitutional Court. So the ruling could still be overthrown.
      The federal constitution court will most likely simply dismiss the case, as it is in no relevance to the constitution ...

  • by Torvac ( 691504 )
    the most interesting point in this trial was their argument about the webservice main purpose is advertising, not providing news (they run a big yellow press news portal). They are also one of the main reasons terrorism in germany escalated in the 60s,
  • Really something like this has to be expected from Axel Springer Media company. They are literally the worst media company in Europe & US I've heart about. Because of their trashy articles they have a high readership in Germany and because of this high number, they contact public persons and press them for either interviews or pictures of their private life, or else threatens them to publish negative articles about them. Multiple persons have reported these incidents but unbelievable as it sounds, this
  • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 ) on Friday April 20, 2018 @05:45AM (#56470063) Journal

    I don't block Ads, I don't particularly care if a website shows ads.

    What I don't like is

    Annoying animated GIFs
    Auto-loading videos with audio.
    Spyware that attempts to track my every move.

    Ghostery blocks the latter and this pretty much results in the former also being blocked because these scumbags can't resist spying on everyone.

  • > The Oberlandesgericht Koln (Germany's Higher Regional Court of Cologne)

    Köln != Cologne
  • How kind of them to deign to let me decide what I hear and see!

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal