Restating the obvious: adblocking declared legal · 2015-04-21 17:25 by Ben Williams

It may surprise readers of this blog to know that some advertiser groups believe blocking ads is illegal. They are upset that adblockers impede their multi-billion dollar business (or in this case, euros) of shoveling ads at you whether or not you like it or asked for it. In fact, a group of publishers in Hamburg, Germany was so upset that they actually took Adblock Plus to court.

Today, after a four-month trial, reasonable heads prevailed as the regional court in Hamburg ruled in our favor by declaring that ad blocking is, in fact, perfectly legal. I know, it’s restating the obvious. But it cost us lots of blood, sweat and tears nonetheless.

The Hamburg court decision is an important one because it sets a precedent that may help us avoid additional lawsuits and expenses defending what we feel is an obvious consumer right: giving people the ability to control their own screens by letting them block annoying ads and protect their privacy.

For those of you who are interested in legal proceedings, you may find these details fascinating:

Now that the legalities are out of the way, we want to reach out to other publishers and advertisers and content creators and encourage them to work with Adblock Plus rather than against us. Let’s develop new forms of nonintrusive ads that are actually useful and welcomed by users; let’s discover ways to make better ads; let’s push forward to create a more sustainable Internet ecosystem for everyone.

You know where to reach us.

Comment [47]

  1. Paul Horsfield · 2015-04-21 18:27 · #

    Congratulations on winning the case, these advertisers seem to forget about us, the internet users, rights not be bothered by meaningless adverts that have no interest to us whatsoever, if we wanted their services we would search for them ourselves.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks, and don’t worry, we won’t forget about you.

  2. Hans · 2015-04-21 18:30 · #

    Congratulations!

    Gmail used to have decent, non-intrusive ads in the past. They were the only ones I didn’t block – and actually clicked on occasionally! But at some point, they too started using colors and distracting, moving graphics. That was the moment I started blocking gmail ads as well. By now I hardly ever see any advertising on the internet at all. Not on websites, not in my email, not on facebook, nowhere. Never.

    Why is it that advertisers can’t behave? They keep losing customers. The only reason not more people are blocking them is that people lack the technical knowledge to install these kind of plug-ins. Every friend and relative who I’ve helped doing this was ever so greatful for the relief it brought to their eyes and their entire internet experience.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Really appreciate that — especially that you’ve been sharing the ABP experience with others!

  3. Dumpty · 2015-04-21 18:44 · #

    Congratulations ABP. :)

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks!

  4. JOSE LUIS HUERTA · 2015-04-21 20:11 · #

    very good job

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks!

  5. Blocker-Ede · 2015-04-21 21:46 · #

    Congrats and thanks for standing up in court! :)

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks, really grateful for your support.

  6. Foobarbaz · 2015-04-21 22:19 · #

    Congrats to sanity!

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Cheers to that!

  7. Someone · 2015-04-21 22:29 · #

    Are the details of the ruling available (DE is ok!) – it would be interesting to see what the basis of the ruling is.

    Also, does this judgement affect users elsewhere within the EU?

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    There are a few articles out there that go into details about the case (http://venturebeat.com/2015/04/21/german-court-rules-adblock-plus-is-legal/). There will likely be other facts in the coming weeks, but the important thing is we won!

    To your second question, well, we hope it sets a positive example :) but the court was just for Germany.

  8. James Edward Lewis II · 2015-04-21 23:56 · #

    “regional court in Hamburg”

    I think that implies that it is only controlling in the Hamburg area, although even if it is not appealed to a higher court, the ruling could well be cited in other courts in similar cases.

    (I don’t know how much weight case law carries in Europe, only that it is less than in the United States, where I live, but I still think that the ruling would be cited elsewhere, even if it does not by itself settle the issue anywhere outside Hamburg.)

    By the way, I tried searching Google in both English and German for the ruling itself and found nothing, and then looking at the website for the regional court in Hamburg, and my best guess is that there is an 8-week delay before rulings are published (the latest ones are from 24 February 2015); also, searching for “Eyeo” pulled up nothing: http://www.rechtsprechung-hamburg.de/jportal/portal/page/bshaprod.psml?form=bsIntExpertSearch&neuesuche=Neu&st=ent&sm=gercont&desc=text&query=+&desc=norm&query=+&desc=court&query=FG+Hamburg

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks. The ruling was very straightforward, and was sent to us in an email (literally, one line). The specific reasons the court sided with or against each argument will be released at a later date (key difference in German law), but again, the crucial point is that the case was dismissed.

    If you’re a German reader, here’s an article from a reporter who attended the hearing: http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Landgericht-Hamburg-Adblock-Plus-darf-weiter-blocken-2616148.html

  9. abdu · 2015-04-22 03:40 · #

    adblockplus! you did not stand in court just for yourselves. you stood in court for all of us, and i could never thank you enough for everything you’ve done for us, unlike some people i didn’t find adblock by accident or had somebody tell me about it, i searched ad blocker on google after i was tottaly fed up with pop ups and flashing ads and misleading buttons, i thought maybe there has to be a softwar that i could instal to get rid of the ads when i instaled the adblock ad on i couldn’t believe it , it felt like the first day i used internet. thank you so much for your work please keep it up

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks, you’re making me (or us) blush :) But in all seriousness, it’s decisions like the one you made — to block all that blinking BS and take back control — that send the strongest message.

  10. mcdavis · 2015-04-22 04:06 · #

    I wonder how many members of the Deutsches judiciary became ABP users as a result of this case. Hopefully several. :)

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    … no comment ;)

  11. Xitroen · 2015-04-22 05:09 · #

    Thanks for the very good job you do for us. Soon I will donate some money to you to help. Not much because I have little income. But I will participate. Now I would like you to explain me how to block adds on my phone it start to be really ennoying. I tried to install adblock but I lost the WiFi and I had to reset the phone and I lost most of my contacts… Anyway it’s not important… It’s my problem. Congratulations for this magnificent victory. All the best from Thailand.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks, we’re very grateful. Regarding your phone, if you use Android you can just download Adblock Plus for Android. You can also install ABP on Firefox mobile or it comes out of the box on the Maxthon browser.

    For additional news on mobile devices … stay tuned.

  12. Alhaitham · 2015-04-22 07:15 · #

    Thanks for the effort and congrats to all of us

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Indeed.

  13. Acustic · 2015-04-22 09:00 · #

    Now, every adblock user should sue those two companies for trying to forcefully display ads against our will.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Listening … intrigued ;)

  14. Vincent · 2015-04-22 11:41 · #

    Apparently, the plaintiffs have not heard of the Streisand effect: when you try to remove something from the internet, even more people will share and use it. I hope it will be the case for ABP.

    It seems that the only purpose of advertiser’s job is to annoy people. I’m not even sure that’s efficient.

    I remember one time, I had to (I hope you sat down before reading this) clean a plate with my cursor before I could watch a video. 2 days ago, I desactivated ABP on a french newspaper site and there was a 20 second video ad before seeing a picture. Yes, a PICTURE.

    I hope this kind of practice die fast and the companies practicing it go bankrupt. Ethical respectful advertising is what must be done.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks, Vincent. I think you’re on to something with ethical and respectful ads! Maybe advertisers should listen?

  15. Varma Vegesna · 2015-04-22 12:42 · #

    Congratulations for winning the lawsuit.I fell in love with adblockplus from my first usage.
    Its an amazing app. Keep up the good work. Long live Adblock plus :)

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    That’s awesome to hear, thanks!

  16. Steve Timmins · 2015-04-22 16:13 · #

    Congratulation in winning the court case. Pesky adverts will soon be a thing of the past. Therefore, we are now recommending your product to our visitors on our websites.

    Best regards

    Steve Timmins

    THE ! GROOVY ! GROUP ! ®
    www.thegroovygroup.com

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks, Steve, really appreciate the recommendation!

  17. Kevin · 2015-04-22 16:27 · #

    Well done Ben and the team. This is excellent.

    What I really don’t understand is how these publishers thought this would end up. They were the ones who started to use animations, flickering, fake Windows with “Congratulations you’ve won” and more annoying, the damn popups. If they didn’t become too intrusive, this wouldn’t be a problem.

    I just hope the European courts continue this common sense.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks, Kevin, good to know that you’ve got our back!

  18. Simon · 2015-04-22 17:07 · #

    Excellent News. I expect even more people will now install the Addon.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Here’s hoping! Thanks for the comment!

  19. E-TARD The LifeCaster · 2015-04-22 18:23 · #

    Big Win for users :D
    Thanks for doing it.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    You bet!

  20. celio vaz · 2015-04-22 18:28 · #

    many websites today force you to disable adblock to navigate within their server. well, it´s their right, but I don´t pause my adblock easily. normally, when I required to UNINSTALL (yes, they ask you to uninstall, not pause), I simply put that site into my blacklist. Websites with such requirement generally have so many ads and traps that you won´t be able to get what you want anyway, so they can f*ck theirselves!

    congrats to abp for this major win. may the force still be with you. abp makes my browser faster, and also helps with tracking traps, my favorite chrome extension!

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Glad you dig ABP!

  21. Uzair · 2015-04-22 21:08 · #

    Congratulations! You guys are doing hell of work to make browsing clean and peaceful!

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks, Uzair, keep on enjoying a peaceful web.

  22. JP · 2015-04-22 22:33 · #

    congratulations

    have used your software for ages now and would have a poor Internet experience without it

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Really appreciate the support, JP!

  23. TFM · 2015-04-22 23:03 · #

    Advertising pays the bills and enables the worldwide distribution of quality, journalism-based content to the world.

    If everyone installed AB software, pay-walls would spring up left, right and centre – pricing the poor out of access to qualified / balanced opinions.

    I’m right behind your mission to improve the quality of advertising, but I disagree with the business model in play and your white-listing of certain companies in exchange for a revenue share.

    Just my coupla pence!

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Do have another look at Acceptable Ads, though: only 10% pay and the criteria are the same for everyone. Think of it as a tax to keep a great initiative alive.

  24. Congrats · 2015-04-23 00:59 · #

    Congrats, I love adblock! If they won this case, next it would be removing our spam folders.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks, love that you love us!

  25. Christine Bennett · 2015-04-23 01:50 · #

    Congratulations! I have been using ABP for YEARS! I continue to cite you in my communications and media classes, and champion you on FB. You are my savior and the BEST part of my Internet experience. I can’t thank you enough. I just wish I had a job so I could contribute some money to your cause.

    But THANK YOU!

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    THANK YOU for using ABP!

  26. X2 · 2015-04-23 04:54 · #

    So, dear Eyeo, why do you lie about what happened? The lawsuit wasn’t about the legality of ad blocking in the first place. Therefore it could not have been ruled legal either.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks for your thoughts. And, well, I’m no lawyer — but we did just win a case in which the plaintiffs sought to prohibit the distribution of a specific piece of software (ours) that can suppress ads on their domains, including www.zeit.de wiwo.de and handelsblatt.com.

  27. Krishnan · 2015-04-23 12:58 · #

    Heh heh, you guys will end up killing the free Internet as we know today.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    We sure hope not! That’s why we made Acceptable Ads as a compromise: https://adblockplus.org/en/acceptable-ads

  28. Ollybear · 2015-04-23 13:19 · #

    Good work ABP! You definitely make the internet a better place to surf!

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks, enjoy the web the way it should be!

  29. Arsene's zip · 2015-04-23 14:37 · #

    My issue, and my reason for using ADP & Ghostery, has never been with adverts in general – I understand that to produce content costs money.

    My issue is with the fact that any advert displayed logs my IP etc, then tracks me across multiple sites to build up a profile of me and my habits.

    I don’t have any option other than ABP to stop them tracking me. I have never given anyone any permission to build a profile of me. It’s a matter of privacy and choice.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Good point(s). Do you use our privacy protection? https://adblockplus.org/en/features#tracking

  30. Minhaj · 2015-04-23 16:36 · #

    I just can’t imagine browsing without adblock. The amount of download now buttons, your pc is burning, viruses everywhere, on click pop up ads is getting ridiculous day by day! Any person with little knowledge about internet will certainly f*ck up their pc’s unknowingly because of these.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Can’t argue with any of that. Thanks for commenting.

  31. Guest · 2015-04-23 18:46 · #

    In regards to response 23; 2015-04-22 23:03 –

    Your comment with “quality, journalism-based content” and “pricing the poor out of access to qualified / balanced opinions.”.

    You fail to take into account the more than significant quantity of trash content out there that has diluted “journalism” to trash. I find that the more ads a site has, the worse the level of content strangely enough.

    Most sites out there with Clickbait titles for ad-eyeballs, and no actual content, terrible quality pages that literally are hosted saying read more and link to the original source so they get ad-eyeballs on their own page, 5 pages to load for a review so you can get more pageviews and more ads loaded.. it’s bred an absolutely disgusting cesspool of internet quality.

    If advertising wasn’t thrust in my face everywhere I go, in everything I do, diluting the quality of content I might just pay more attention to it. All I find however is that this constant desire for the “easy money” of advertising has trashed content and quality, and is flooding out people with genuine talent for garbage-spewing syndicates.

    I honestly cannot see how blocking a malware vector and privacy risk “infringes press freedoms.”
    What next, people binning the inserts before reading from newspapers being arrested?

    I’m glad that the courts saw sense, best of luck with this Ben!

    Oh and for the records, I allow the non-intrusive ads, but the minute it detracts from the content of the page, or becomes disruptive they are added to the list.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks. Just one small thing: if you do feel a particular whitelisted ad is too intrusive, let us know (there’s a forum post for every single one). We’re always hungry for insight and feedback, so we can improve.

  32. Elroy · 2015-04-24 09:55 · #

    Congratulations! The owners of Zeit Online GmbH and Handelsblatt GmbH must be autistic and are probably Satanists.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Hahahaha! Thanks!

  33. al · 2015-04-24 10:28 · #

    Thanks

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Sure. Thank you for using ABP.

  34. Heyday · 2015-04-24 14:44 · #

    Thats big win for us – users:)

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Absolutely.

  35. Ravemaster · 2015-04-24 16:48 · #

    Great job at winning the case. I have been using Adblock Plus since at least 2011 after getting tired of being forced to watch commercials in a YouTube video before I could watch the video. After reading a comment in Youtube that you could just download Adblock Plus to remove advertisement from YouTube videos (and other websites), I decided to give it a try. After installing the Adblock Plus plugin, I felt stupid that I didn’t do it earlier haha. Overall, Adblock Plus is the best extension or add-on created for any browser (in my opinion anyway).

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Very high praise, thanks a lot!

  36. Daniel Petre · 2015-04-25 07:46 · #

    If you own a OpenWrt compatible router or even my custom compiled firmware you can even block most of the server ads right on the router very fast and safe like i stated here:
    http://superwrt.ro/ad-block/
    You can use google translate but for the OpenWrt enthusiasts the four easy steps to get rid of the most ads should be pretty obvious.

  37. paul · 2015-04-26 20:06 · #

    congrats on a great success, as always adblock is awesome and i will continue to put it on my customers pc’s as i repair them thanks i get for doing that is also awesome they cant thank me enough when they realise no more ads

    kepp up the good work guys :)

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks for the kind words. And thanks a bunch for turning people on to Adblock Plus!

  38. David · 2015-04-29 22:10 · #

    Congrats on winning the case! Been using ABP for a couple of years now, one of the best things I’ve downloaded in years. I have installed it on all my browsers (Chrome, IE 11, Firefox), and I installed it on both my mothers computer, and my uncles. I also used to do Tech support for a large electronics retailer, whenever I was allowed to log into a clients computer I would install ABP for them. Clients were so thankful for the app!

    Blocking adds is not and never should be considered illegal! It’s intrusive and has gotten out of hand in recent years. Keep up the good work! And keep fighting for us…the little guys!

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks for the support, David!

  39. Ashish Dung Dung · 2015-05-02 06:47 · #

    Congratulations on winning the law suit, I had been following this case for a while. Well people want to have their rights to block ads they don’t want to see at all. Not much companies show equivalent ads that one is really interested in. That’s where ADB helps us and I would like it to continue providing its services like it has for a long time.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks for the support!

  40. Cascade · 2015-05-13 15:14 · #

    Excellent news – well done! The great thing about the Internet is that it gives people the choice of what content they want and don’t want to see. Also, many websites would be difficult to use without ABP.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks! Our sentiment exactly: it’s your Internet, it’s your screen, it’s your call how you experience it.

  41. Nostromov · 2015-05-16 19:56 · #

    “[..] of shoveling ads at you whether or not you like it or asked for it” is such a gentle way of putting it…

    It’s been too many years, of abuse and misuse; including landing and parking pages (whole systems) which serve as nothing more – than a blatant way of advertizing and achieving a higher Page Rank, getting on the front page of results in a search engine (such as Google, 4 example).

    A multi-layer, multi-purpose hustle; a high-stake game, which is as damaging to the advertisers (people paying to have their ads up), as is to the end-user – you and me, sitting at our screen (many “ads” are a virus, a trojan and similar; unfortunately, even today).

    Adblock Plus has transformed our online experience (and life!) and I, for one, am eternally grateful!.. Tyvm!! :))

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    That’s great, thanks! We’re pretty grateful ourselves.

  42. Nostromov · 2015-05-16 19:58 · #

    *not to mention the ones which “install”, crowding our internet connection and the operating system: https://www.google.com/search?q=internet+explorer+bho

  43. ryanin · 2015-05-19 12:22 · #

    many websites today force you to disable adblock… Dont turn of you ad blocker, install “No Script” add on and block the script that blocks you ad blocker.

  44. Nishant · 2015-05-19 15:47 · #

    Congratulations on winning the case!! Ad Block has truly made Internet browsing wonderful both on PC and Mobile. Ad Block is a good piece of software, before I was flooded with Ads all over. Congratulations once again…..keep up the good work….

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Happy you’re happy! Thanks for the support!

  45. soren · 2015-05-21 00:13 · #

    Looking over the report on “heise.de”, the case was won because;

    1) There is case law allowing ads to be blocked on TVs
    2) The companies were no specifically targeted (not treating the plaintiff different from anybody else)
    3) The user have the ability to change the settings (user has the control)

  46. shaan · 2015-05-22 12:55 · #

    Looks I’m a bit late here but I want to share my little love/hate story with the net!

    The first day I used the internet was the day I made my first mail account. That was in 2004. I remember browsing the net through my 56kbps internal PCI modem and although it was slow I could see a page within 1 minute of accessing it, in average.

    Things changed (for the worse) in around 2006-7 when I realized that I could see only one site within 1 minute of accessing, my gmail, and going anywhere else felt like clicking a page – making coffee – coming back to see if the page (and the ads) have been loaded fully, if not, then taking a few sips and then check again. I was still using that 56kbps modem. Slow huh?

    In 2008 I subscribed to a 2mbps broadband plan with a 3GB/month limit. Browsing got lightning fast and after a few months I realized that about 70% of that limit was consumed by the flash/gif “click here – you have won this – your pc may be insecure – sexy bikini girls” BS. Sh*t just got real with fast internet!

    Then in 2011, I started using Firefox and a year later I found ABP in the add-on section.

    I installed it and felt like going back to the clean internet of 2004 again!!!! And am happy to say that it is clean to this day all thanks to you hardworking guys.

    So, Thanks a Lot!

    ABP rocks! \m/

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    That’s awesome! Actually, lots of people who remember the somewhat wilder, freer net say the same thing: ABP (and other extensions) help you get it back the way it was (or, perhaps should be). Thanks for sharing.

  47. Crazy · 2015-05-25 01:47 · #

    Big win for the biggest extractor. Users will read more paid articles, that you cannot block and so on. ABP is stealing and extorting companies.

    This is first instance and many more suits are coming, according the press.

    If you want to block Ads, you can block an entire website. But you block only Ads, and consume Content without payment.

    Congrats for hundreds of millions you’ve milked from Search Engines!

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks for the comment, Crazy, but I disagree with your premise that ad blocking is somehow “stealing.” Users choose to block bad ads because they’re terrible and devoid of value. Why not make better ads?

Commenting is closed for this article.