German publisher Alex Springer is suing the company behind Adblock Plus for copyright infringement. According to the company, which owns Bild and Die Welt, among others, ad blockers endanger digital journalism and "change the programming code of websites."
There can be little doubt that without revenues generated by advertising, today’s web would be a very different animal. Many sites live or die by the money they bring in via advertising but a growing number of platforms feel that volume can make up for quality, bombarding visitors with what many consider unstoppable spam. For the savvy, of course, plenty of options are available to block the most annoying ads. Many use browser plugins like uBlock or AdBlock Plus to limit the number of ads they see, much to the disappointment of those delivering them.
In an effort to put a stop to this ‘freeloading’, digital publishing company Alex Springer has waged a years-long campaign against German-based developer Eyeo GmbH, the company behind Adblock Plus. The publisher, which owns Bild and Die Welt, among others, claimed that AdBlock Plus and its users undermined its business model. However, after trips through regional and eventually Germany’s Supreme Court, in April 2018 Adblock Plus and Eyeo GmbH came out on top. Now, a year later, Axel Springer has returned for another bite of the cherry. This time the publisher claims that AdBlock Plus infringes copyright. The company’s complaint, reported on by Heise.de, appears to push the boundaries of what is generally accepted as infringement. “Advertising blockers change the programming code of websites and thus directly access the legally protected offer of publishers,” says Claas-Hendrik Soehring, head of media law at Axel Springer. “In the long term, they will not only damage a central financing basis for digital journalism, but will also jeopardize open access to opinion-forming information on the Internet in the long term.”