Regulation

AdBlock Plus Maker Wins Court Challenge

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Another German regional court upholds the principle of ad-blocking, but publishers are wary of Eyeo’s market dominance

Eyeo, the controversial  firm that makes Adblock Plus, has won a German case brought by Speigel Online that had attempted to bar the advert-screening technology.

Hamburg’s regional court on Friday dismissed all of Spiegel Online’s claims, the latest regional German court to uphold Eyeo’s right to continue providing its ad-blocking services.

Ad-blocking upheld

adblock-plus

The court hasn’t yet provided a statement explaining its reasoning.

“It’s another victory for consumers and ad-blocking providers everywhere,” said Ben Williams, head of operations and communications for AdBlock Plus, in a blog post.

Spiegel Online and other major German publishers have challenged Eyeo on the grounds that its ad-blocker unlawfully modifies the content they provide before it reaches users, and that Eyeo is illegitimately exploiting its dominant market position to force publishers to pay for its white-listing programme.

Eyeo enables white-listing in AdBlock Plus by default, and the vast majority of users, or a total of about 100 million, don’t switch the feature off.

The company then sells white-list access to companies that abide by its rules for “non-intrusive” ads, a practice publishers argue is comparable to extortion due to Eyeo’s market dominance.

Then-culture secretary John Whittingdale said earlier this year the government was looking into taking action against Eyeo and similar firms, calling their business model a “modern-day protection racket”.

Legal challenges

Previous cases brought by Zeit Online, Handelsblatt, ProSieben/Sat 1, RTL Interactive and Süddeutsche Zeitung have also been decided in favour of Eyeo.

In the Süddeutsche Zeitung case the court said the country’s laws were not in place merely to protect publishers’ existing revenue models.

Axel Springer had better luck with an appeal at Cologne’s regional court, where judges in May called Eyeo’s business practices “highly questionable” and barred Eyeo from charging the publisher for white-listing. That decision, too, upheld the principle of ad-blocking.

Eyeo has said it plans to appeal the Axel Springer case, which could proceed to Germany’s federal court.

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