German Supreme Court rules Ad Blockers are legal

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An interesting case concerning Ad Blockers has just been ruled on by the German Supreme Court. The court has ruled that, at least in Germany, it’s fine for users to use software Ad Blockers should they choose to do so.

There are a number of cases bought by publishers, but in this instance it was Axel Springer vs Adblock Plus from Eyeo, the first to reach Germany’s Supreme Court.

The argument against Eyeo contends that not only do Ad Blockers harm the publishing industry who rely on adverts to monetise their sites, but that Adblock Plus also effectively blackmail publishers as they charge (around 10%) of the largest publishers should they wish their sites to be put on a white list.

Adblock Plus contend that they don’t actually block any sites, it is the users who choose what sites to block, albeit with open source lists commonly shared to make it easy to block large numbers of sites.

Adblock Plus operate a white list which any publisher can opt to apply to. However in order to be accepted they have to conform to what Adblock Plus consider to be an acceptable ad. Pretty much, that includes blocking the most annoying ads that take up too much of your screen space, autoplay sound or video, overlay content, appear in the middle of content, pop ups and pop unders and rich media ads – basically all the ad types you probably hate. Acceptable ads are those at reasonable sizes above, to the side or below the content with the content taking the primary allowance of real estate on the page.

The court decided that not only are Ad Blockers legal, but so is operating a white list of companies whose adverts won’t be blocked.

For publishers this is bad news as it means a percentage of visitors to their site won’t see or click on their adverts. The court did however point out that there is nothing to stop publishers from blocking visitors who use Ad Blockers from viewing their content.

The real lesson to be learnt is that users don’t actually object to all adverts, they just don’t like them to be intrusive or interrupt or block content. If publishers want to monetise their sites they either need to have adverts which are an acceptable compromise to their users, get themselves added to white lists by configuring their adverts to be deemed acceptable or find different ways to monetise content.

This will also apply to you in you publish ads on your site – they might be in the form of Google Adwords, Product feeds from marketplaces or shopping comparison sites – if you rely on sales or affiliate payments from adverts then make sure they’re not so annoying that your users block them.

2 Responses

  1. of course adblockers are legal, you’d be hard pushed to win a case where you claim dominion over another’s eyeballs and attention. if i don’t want to look at your ads, i should be able to block them. afaik they’re put there purely for my (the collective we) benefit.
    – PS, adblockers don’t directly block ads, they block the faceless, nameless, “insert ad here” scripts used by most websites these days to display their ads, which usually come through google ads etc. and often have nothing or little to do with what you actually wanted to look at.
    – contrast this with the type of adverts you get on Tamebay. adblockers will not block these ads, because they’re not 3rd party scripts, they actually live on the site displaying them (or close enough to appear as such), along with all the ads thinly disguised as editorials. adblockers can’t distinguish them from the on-site content you were looking for.
    This shows that websites can, and do, succeed in advertising without using the copy/paste/forget google code to cash in, and adblockers can’t do a damn thing about that.
    It also allows the site far more control over what appears on their site. if they use google code and someone has a problem or is offended, by something seen on their website, well if it was an ad chances are the site owner doesn’t have a clue what the ad was even for, let alone the content of said ad. you don’t get away with that lack of responsibility in say, print publishing, do you?

    So rather than apply better marketing practices, making better adverts, doing the hard work, ad-supported sites believe they can collectively force people to watch their lazily-coded adverts against their will by using the legal system? I should think not.

    I mean it’s great that a small, independent, site with good content can copy/paste a small bit of code and monetise that site, however it has also facilitated the internet to be crammed full of absolute junk. stuff nobody needs or wants, purely there to support a bunch of google ads, and trick people into clicking their links.
    – clickbait. if it weren’t for google ads, we probably wouldn’t have to endure clickbait, and the entire industry that’s formed around it.

    were adblockers to become commonplace, then the google ads-type 3rd party ads would disappear, but the internet would not disappear with it, nor would adverts. they’d go back to being the 1st and 2nd party ads we had long before the internet came along. genuine sites would get genuine advertisers, normally linked to their industry. and clickbait sites would mostly shrivel up and die, probably making the internet a much nicer place in the process.

    also, don’t use adblock plus, exactly because of the whitelists. “Hey we block ads for you, unless the advertisers you try to block paid us not to”. use uBlock origin instead, which does a much better job and doesn’t have paid-for whitelists.

  2. My Computer,
    My Screen,
    My Viewing Space.

    I should be able to decide what I look at and not be forced to see all sorts of utter crap just because someone want to make money from it. A couple of relevant adverts at the bottom I can put up with as long as they don’t flash, move, blink, talk, or have any music. Even then I should still have the option to switch them OFF.


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