September 14, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Web ad blocking may not be (entirely) legal

Advertising-supported companies have long turned to the courts to squelch products that let consumers block or skip ads: it happened in the famous lawsuit against the VCR in 1979 and again with ReplayTV in 2001.

Tomorrow's legal fight may be over Web browser add-ons that let people avoid advertisements. These add-ons are growing in functionality and popularity, which has led legal experts surveyed this week by CNET to speculate about when the first lawsuit will be filed.

If ad-blockers become so common that they slice away at publishers' revenues, "I absolutely would expect to see litigation in this area," said John Palfrey, executive director of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Firefox's Adblock plug-in is probably the most prominent way to configure Web browsers not to display advertisements. It lets people block ads from individual Web sites such as or through configurable directories, like "/banner". Similar plug-ins are available for Opera, Safari and Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, the lobbying arm for the online ad industry, says it isn't preparing a legal offensive at this point. Mike Zaneis, the organization's vice president of public policy, said he wants to work with software developers and consumers to come up with a middle ground on what he describes as an "issue that is just now ripening."

"We don't want to go down a route that would seem adversarial at all," Zaneis said. "People are free to ignore ads, and they often do that, but when you have a third party blocking those ads, that's the real problem." He said the IAB is "looking at all the options."

Ad-blocking tools have been around for years, of course, albeit not without controversy. Nearly a decade ago, a Web software firm called ClearWay Technologies released a beta version of its AdScreen blocking software to threats of boycott from Macintosh-oriented publishers that feared the product would kill their ad-supported Web sites. The company responded by killing the project. Before that, security firm PGP Corp. discontinued an ad-blocking program called Internet Fast Forward because its creator said he had been threatened with copyright lawsuits for modifying publishers' pages without their permission.

Ad-blocking recently hit the spotlight again when an obscure blogger named Danny Carlton--who expounds fringe political views such as AIDS being a "mythical disease" invented by the U.S. government--banned Firefox users from his Web site. Claiming that Firefox creator Mozilla Corp. has endorsed the Adblock plug-in, Carlton redirected Firefox browsers to

The New York Times wrote about the kerfuffle last week, and the CNET Blog Network expanded on the topic from a technical perspective. On Wednesday, Carlton lifted the ban on all Firefox users, saying he found a way to identify only Firefox browsers outfitted with Adblock Plus.

MySpace, LiveJournal: Don't block our ads
Many Web sites prohibit any kind of ad-blocking in their terms of service agreements. prohibits "covering or obscuring the banner advertisements on your personal profile page, or any page via HTML/CSS or any other means." Six Apart's LiveJournal uses similar language, as do some news organizations including the Chicago Sun-Times and Fox TV's Houston affiliate. CNET does not.

Any lawsuit would likely invoke two arguments--that copyright infringements are taking place (through derivative works), and that the Web site's terms of service agreement is being violated.

"From a pure legal point of view, a Web site can do anything it wants, so to speak," said Michael Krieger, an intellectual property and business lawyer with the firm Willenken Wilson Loh & Lieb in Los Angeles. "That's a little overstating it, obviously, but suppose to get into Google, you first have to click 'I agree, I'm not blocking ads.' I think it's perfectly within their rights to do that."

In the past, entertainment companies have threatened commercial-skipping products on the grounds that they violate copyrights. ReplayTV, which sells digital video recorders, eventually dropped in 2003 a feature called Automatic Commercial Advance after facing a lawsuit from major TV networks and movie studios over that and other issues. (A judge dismissed the suit the following year.)

It's not clear whose side the courts would take, if asked. In the famous lawsuit over the VCR from nearly 30 years ago, the movie studios claimed that Betamax users would fast-forward through commercials.

They lost, of course. The 1979 district court opinion estimated that only 25 percent of VCR owners fast-forward through commercials. But it was based on the technology available at the time: what if it was easier and 95 percent of TV viewers did it? (The judge said: "To avoid commercials during playback, the viewer must fast-forward and, for the most part, guess as to when the commercial has passed. For most recordings, either practice may be too tedious.")

See more CNET content tagged:
lawsuit, online advertising, LiveJournal, terms of service, Firefox


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Is "Illegal" the right word?
For it to be illegal, there would have to be some law that made blocking of ads an illegal act. Is there any such law?

As for the web site own terms and conditions, that would be a contractual matter - i.e. Breach of Contract. A site could potentially request users to stop blocking, and pay damages. What damages would be due from someone who would never have click the ads anyway is an interesting question.

As for copyright infringment. I dont buy that. The copyrighted material is the HTML documents and images etc. Ad-blocking software does not additionally copy, modify or distribute this HTML, it only chooses render it differently. Your choice of rendering is surely covered by fair use.
Posted by NickH (127 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Push Advertising: We are just responding by pushing back
While it does surprise me that litigation is on the rise about the issue of e-ad blocking, I think it is a common reaction to our switch from "pull" advertising to "push", where loads of personal data are gathered on any given consumer & used to "push" service/product to him/her, versus him/her coming to the provider in search of service/product.

Personally, I think the next step is to modify the bill of right to add an amendments about our internet freedoms.
Posted by Roguexxxi (3 comments )
Link Flag
This is not copyright infringement
Website owners would need to copyright every ad combination WITH their sight content 'statically' for that to even be considered. Secondly if ad-blocking is a violation of copyright, under the unauthorized derivative work, then so is censorship, and the FCC and MPAA and all broadcasters, have been violating copyrights for years! Local Broadcasters routinely play local commercials in place of national ones that are occuring in the background on the national feeds, are those national ad agencies screaming copyright infringement? Copyrights are to prevent unauthorized reproduction of works, to block an ad, is not reproducing any of the content, it is simply omitting part of it. On the other hand one could also argue that the internet by design, is making reproductions of everything that passes over it, all the time, are they not all considered authorized, simply by placing them on the internet anyway? Should it not be just accepted as fact that putting something on the internet IS making it a Public Domain work, unless you do something to restrict its access? I think it is outragous to even consider the idea of entering into some kind of legal, binding contract just to view a site. A site that you can post to, maybe, but just browsing? There should be no such thing, and such terms of use should be banned. How about we just pass a law that says you own me money, because I say you do, because thats what the advertisers want, money for nothing. They paid big money to get those security holes and popups and adware capabilities, now they complain because we can turn around and beat them at their own game, without spending a dime. The internet is a free open forum, and try as you might, you can not change it, it was designed that way. I repeat, the internet was NOT desinged, nor implemented or purposed for commerce, end of story. Just because it has started to be used for such, does not give you any guarentee that it will faithfully serve that function.
Posted by chash360 (394 comments )
Link Flag
Maybe there will be a PUSH Ad backlash. I love the fact that I can get so much good content for free. I remember when most content was subscription only, and I would hate to see so many web ads blocked that Publishers give up on ad supported free content. I'd rather see Publishers move to a personalized PULL web ad system like the new one from which allows the publisher to still make ad revenue -- but allows ME to choose what kinds of products the ads I see will be for. Also, I prefer their privacy model, where they keep all my shopping data on my computer where I control it and not on some server where it might be targeted by crackers.
Posted by PullNotPush (1 comment )
Link Flag
I click on each ad I see on a web-site I want to donate to. Then I close the ad.
Posted by 123chess456 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Advertisers should blame themselves
Most people have no problem with advertisements ON web pages. It's when advertisers started to get obnoxious with endless popups and pop-unders that people got motivated to start blocking them. Advertisers take note: NOBODY WILL BUY YOUR PRODUCTS IF YOU ANNOY THEM! Can you imagine opening your New York Times and having adverts start flying out of the newspaper and up into your face? Get or not, I and everybody I know will continue to use every means possible to keep you from opening windows up on our machines...keep it on the web page that contains the information I want or keep it to yourself!
Posted by bmergner (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I wouldn't block the ads...
... if they wouldn't intrude on the article I may be trying to read simply because my mouse cursor drifted over them.

... if the flash they used didn't slow some aspects of my workstation class computer down.

... if random ads didn't contain annoying sound bites.

... etc etc.

Stop making them annoying and intrusive and I will stop blocking them.

I didn't install AdBlocker Plus bacause I didn't want to see the ads, I installed it because the ads were getting to the point of annoying.
Posted by GOVEmployee (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
money talks
Good luck trying to find any content. Already mixing editorial and advertising has become an issue, but it will surely become an even bigger eyesore if the suits win this one. One of the reasons people are attracted to the web in the first place is that it represents (at least for the moment) a user experience where we are not overwhelmed with ads. Why do you think people buys Tivos and rent movies. We are sick to death of advertising. Must it always be about sell this ... sell that. What a sad excuse for a culture.
Posted by justmeol (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Why is no one mentioning WebSense?
I use websense in a corporate envrioment to block users from sites they shouldn't be browseing at work. I also block the entire list from Ad-Blocker to conserve bandwidth and keep users safe from dangerous ads that if clicks usually load spyware. I've been doing this long before Ad-Block was created.
Posted by toomchstout (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
they haven't learned to tunnel?
you work with a lot of perverts I take it?
Posted by ColdMast (186 comments )
Link Flag
It all doesn't wash though
There are regular updates to the hosts file that block a lot of advertising out there. Are they going to go sue after those? Are they going to insist on scanning my machine to make sure my hosts file doesn't block their advertising?

What if I make those changes in my DNS? Or point my computer to use such a DNS?

To find such things would be incredibly intrusive, and just to make sure advertising is delivered? That's going to take quite a bit of excellent lawyering to get passed. That in itself could be claimed to be malware or spyware.

If they really can succeed on suing based on unauthorized copyright derivation, what about virus and malware scanning? Would I be forced to take their damaging software as well?

The problem as I see it is that this is MY machine, and I WILL control what goes in and out of MY machine.

If publishers had not made the advertising so obnoxious (pop-up, pop-down ads, interactive ads that *demand* we pay attention to them before we get what we are looking for, I remember an Intel ad that used flash that immediately suck way too much processor time, and I didn't have that fast a processor to begin with - Maybe that was the point?) the means that are out there wouldn't be as sophisticated as they are now.

If it turns illegal, then I guess I'll just remain to be a criminal then.
Posted by Bryan Price (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well, now, this is really adding up. MS has long been spam and advertising friendly, plus the unauthorized "updates" MS has been making (maybe even to the EULA), the patent related to tracking what is on people's computers so MS can "provide" them with advertising related to their interests, and the push for "cloud computing" so everyone using MS has to be online, and what's this about VISTA not working after it has not had a chance to phone home for a while?

The snooping and downloading can also be used to remove the ad blocking software, very easily, and remove entries on the hosts file, and how difficult would it be for MS to stick a second "sites permitted even if prohibited by hosts" file in there? Wasn't there something about MS re-enabling certificates the user wanted revoked?
Posted by Phillep_H (497 comments )
Link Flag
I'm the author of Bork Bork Bork!, a Firefox extension, that is both a travesty (humour) and an ad-blocking/flash/html filter similar to the Adblock extension. I added ad-blocking facilities to the original travesty filter for two specific reasons: Adblock has/had lots of JavaScript bugs and online ads (which I now consider to be akin to spam), pop-ups, blog spam, junk email, IM spam, etc. have become so intrusive so as to interfere with my daily life both at work and home.

The only ads I tolerate are the Google text ads that are short, less intrusive, and typically more relevant.

Historically people have been willing to accept TV, radio, billboards, and traditional print media ads, but when advertising tries to get in my face every where I turn from Internet access, online applications, cell phones, flyers, t-shirts, email, sport events, cars windows, sky writing, lawns, tattoos, and what ever else they can think of, I start to see it as polluting my personal visual and audio space, much like light pollution hides the night sky or white noise masks the sounds of nature. The desire for profit at all costs has diminished the experience of life.

To say ad-blocking is theft is a complete lie and one sided distortion of facts: yes, servers have bandwidth and host costs, BUT so to do office workstations and home computers; we (the end user) pay for our bandwidth, we pay for our computer equipment, we pay for our time online, and so we have the right to chose what we will allow to cross our local networks and computer screens. Internet culture has an old saying "my computer, my rules".
Posted by SirWumpus (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thank you
I don't think I use your's in particular, but I appreciate you and the other ad blocker program and plug in authors making your work availible to the public.
Posted by Phillep_H (497 comments )
Link Flag
I am a blogger who gets part of my revenue from the ads that people click on when they visit my site. Many of my readers are from a local university that not only blocks the ads, but when my page comes up on the computers there, the page itself has been realigned so that it doesn't even look like there should be an ad there. I agree completely that the user should have the choice of clicking or not clicking. I don't use pop-ups, but I see this sort of like having one side of the church with an offering plate, and the other side not being told where the collection box was hidden. Then we wonder why the priest looks hungry and can't deliver the homily well.
Posted by BurlJ (2 comments )
Link Flag
Yeah, what sirwumpus said.

Last I checked, I had signed no contracts with ad agencies. They do not have a right to purchase ad space wherever they want. The entities need a contract and nobody needs to agree with advertisements. Advertisers have no right that I know of to force me to watch advertisements; they only have the right to try to do fair business, and fairness includes not harassing a consumer. I change radio stations when they advertise too much. Nobody complaining there! Commercial time on TV? Let in or let out the dog, make popcorn, switch the laundry.... nobody complains there! Post in my blog, visit an online forum, research a product at a manufacturer website, buy a product from an online merchant... nobody complaining there! I don't let telemarketers into my home phone nor into my cellphone. THEY complained about that and they lost. How ironic!

The lesson here is really about moderation. Google ads use only ASCII text, tiny tiny tiny amounts of it. Key word: tiny. Google makes sure the ads are relevant to my interests, not random popups, not jiggeldy 'millionth visitor' fluff, Google posts only one ad here or there, my screen is not littered with 40 ads. I chose to block advertisements as a reaction to avertisers choices to put up big, trashy, flashy, wiggely, swoopy spewage filled with marginal claims. The ads clearly got out of hand, and that is where the internet users drew the line. They lost, they need to get over it.

Advertisers do not have a guaranteed audience. They simply have to make smarter decisions about advertising; demanding laws to force people to suffer advertisements is whining, pure and simple.

FWIW, cNet terms of usage for 'comment reply' says "posting of advertisements... is prohibited". Hmmmmm. Why? How can they enforce that? Hmmmm.
Posted by mmmna (5 comments )
Link Flag
Adblock works great
but a lot of us were blocking advertisements using a host file (that routes calls to sites like doubleclick to long before adblocking programs became popular. And many companies block them at the firewall.

Remember, it's the WORLD wide web and programs that are illegal in the US can be downloaded from offshore servers.

Here's an idea. Don't make your ads so big and so obnoctious and maybe we won't block them.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Derivitave Works?
Oh come on!

Does this mean that when I rip the obnoxious perfume laden ads
out of magazines, I am creating a derivative work and violating
copyright law? What about the blow in cards? Do I have to leave
them in there too? Do I have to leave the volume at the same
level when the loud commercials come on TV? Do they get to
lock our TV and radio channel changers during commercials?

Copyright law is being abused here. I'm not publishing or
redistributing the "modified" web page. If they get this through,
Greasemonkey becomes illegal, after all, it modifies the CSS of
the page. As do page readers for sight impaired people,
changing the font size, setting high contrast color schemes, the
list goes on.

I think the key here is that I am blocking ads, FOR MY USE. I'm
not redistributing, publishing, or claiming it as my work. I also
block spyware, phishing, viruses, spam and malware. Am I
modifying their works too?

As others have said, stop being annoying and we won't want to
block the ads. Unfortunately, (advertising people believe) that
annoying and repetitive ads work. If they didn't, we wouldn't be
assaulted with them. I have given up listening to commercial
radio because of the ads. I rarely watch TV during the initial
broadcast, when I do, I find the ads annoying. Its not that I don't
want to see any advertising, but when I hear the same annoying
ad for the same product five times over a half hour, it grates on

As for the loony that blocks Adblock users, I don't want to read
your delusional ramblings anyway.
Posted by ccouvillion (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Fair Use Exception Would Likely Apply
Posner, as ususal, is too clever by half. Ad blocking would be no different from me taking a newspaper, cutting out the ads, and then making a copy for myself. I'm not selling the copy, I'm using for myself.

Moreover, if Posner is correct, then any technology that alters a web page creates a derivative product. How about browsers that change type font, color, or size? Is that actionable?

Give me a break.
Posted by LawHoo97 (4 comments )
Link Flag
The Anti-Advertising Backlash...
I'm the author of Bork Bork Bork!, a Firefox extension, that is both a travesty (humour) and an ad-blocking/flash/html filter similar to the Adblock extension. I added ad-blocking facilities to the original travesty filter for two specific reasons: Adblock has/had lots of JavaScript bugs and online ads (which I now consider to be akin to spam), pop-ups, blog spam, junk email, IM spam, etc. have become so intrusive so as to interfere with my daily life both at work and home.

The only ads I tolerate are the Google text ads that are short, less intrusive, and typically more relevant.

Historically people have been willing to accept TV, radio, billboards, and traditional print media ads, but when advertising tries to get in my face every where I turn from Internet access, online applications, cell phones, flyers, t-shirts, email, sport events, cars windows, sky writing, lawns, tattoos, and what ever else they can think of, I start to see it as polluting my personal visual and audio space, much like light pollution hides the night sky or white noise masks the sounds of nature. The desire for profit at all costs has diminished the experience of life.

Most ad schemes typically use a pay-per-click scheme. If a user goes to the trouble to block ads, then it is almost a given they will never click on an online-ad anyway. Also by blocking ads, the user will never click on, they well save the ad supported web site money spent on bandwidth by not downloading additional ad images.

It has been commented else where too that users could chose to use text-only non-javascript capable browsers, such as Lynx or Links, and so would never see ads. Web browsers like Firefox, even without Adblock or Bork extensions, have an option to disable the automatic loading of images, javascript, and other HTML objects, which would also prevent ads from being displayed.

To say ad-blocking is theft or illegal is a complete lie and one sided distortion of facts: yes, servers have bandwidth and hosting costs, BUT so too do office workstations and home computers; we (the end user) pay for our bandwidth, we pay for our computer equipment, we pay for our time online, and so we have the right to chose what we will allow to cross our local networks and computer screens. The Internet culture has an old saying "my computer, my rules".
Posted by SirWumpus (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ad block is not the problem
I have Ad Block installed, I leave it turned off most of the time, I only activate it when I hit a page with a obnoxious amount of annoying ads (nost flash, video with audio that starts without my permission, annoying blinking ads for mortgages).

The answer is not to go after Ad block (cause there will be a million replacements), its to control the amount and quality of ads you display on your site.
Posted by LarryLo (164 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Agree, but look at it like this
Some web site is not going to come after you, they will chase the manufacturers of the ad-blocker, and they will argue that the manufacturer recieved some copyrighted material, created a derivative work, and then passed it on you.

I think thats wrong, but thats the argument.

In my mind, the work in question is HTML, and requires (unless your really hardcore) to be rendered to something more readable. This is exactly the same as a CD (or the pulse code modulated representation of the audio) requiring a CD-play for it to me useful to you.

Now, if we want to tinker with the exact rendering, for me, that's fair use. If I want to sell an CD player that pitch-shifts everying up a minor third, and you want to buy it and use it, there is no breach of copyright going on here.

I suspect there are many examples of perfectly legal devices that provide alternate renderings of copyrighted material. Various devices for people with visual and hearing impairments, for example.
Posted by NickH (127 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Could be.
Of course, that's a bit like going after the people who make scissors because people cut stories and ad's out of newspapers, or, maybe, the people who make glue and tape for readers who paste the results on another piece of paper.

An ad blocker service, acting as a proxy site, would be most vulnerable. Then the people who supply proprietory software that they retain the title to, just allowing others a license to use.

Open source, under a license that allows the user title to the software, is least vulnerable, IMO.

Slightly different subject: I've gone to web sites looking for specific items to purchase, and been unable to tell what they heck they were selling because they had too much advertising and too little "what is it and what can it do". So, I bought somewhere else.
Posted by Phillep_H (497 comments )
Link Flag
I don't use AdBlock
I don't use AdBlock. I've eliminated most of my web annoyances by installing the FlashBlock extension and turning off image animation. The only annoyance that I have now is sometimes ads will cover what I want to read, forcing me to activate the flash so I can search for the tiny "close" button on the ad. Interstitial ads are cumbersome, but not as annoying.

In my opinion, the advertisers got what they deserved. By being loud, obnoxious, and "in your face" the public turned on them. I used to mute the volume on the TV when ads came on because the ads were louder than the program. The problem now is that there is too much advertising. It's much like telemarketing. Back when people only got a few calls, very few complained. When the volume of calls increased to the point where people were getting a dozen calls a day, they complained and a law got passed and now there is almost no telemarketing.
Posted by eBob1 (188 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What about *MY* policies?
I hereby declare that it is illegal and somehow copyright-infringing (still looking at the details with my phony lawyers) to display, transfer, or otherwise show adverts by any means on my network and all computers connected to it on my side of the router.

Now for once i'll let it slip, but next time prepare to be fined $5000 per advert, and be thankful i use adblock so most of it doesn't get through.
Posted by azerty4587 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Long Life to AdBlocking
Yep! I guess we should all unite and get our "phony lawyers" together to file suit against the intempestive ad providers.

Because if we aren't allowed to use adblock, then very logically we are entiteled to ask for substantial compensation.

1º)for the loss of time while clicking them off and chasing more when by doing so they maliciously open 3 or 4 other ads!

2º)for more loss of time and posible damage to our OS or browser settings while trying to clean up the ad garbage.

3º)for loss of bandwidth while the programs dropped by the ads sending data about us...

4º)and last for not respecting our individual rights to privacy.

...and last, what would happen if in the real world you'd just get into their home and office and trash every table and desk you can find with stickers with this message written on it!!!
hummm... I'm burning to do it!!!
Posted by e_chappuis (20 comments )
Link Flag
Hear hear!

We will sue for loss of time and productivity, computer invasion, and related computer crime damages!
Posted by lorddefinitia (2 comments )
Link Flag
Hosts file
Hmmm...well, if they sue the pants off the people that make the browser plugins, there's always editing your Hosts file and adding Advertiser's IP numbers ... though it's hardly the most elegant way to block Ads, but it does work. I'm sure the online Ad industry couldn't sue everyone for editing their own Hosts file.

ja ne
Posted by Mousefinger (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You don't need to enter the IP. The URL works just as well (if not better).

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

(This is the one I DLed and use)
Posted by Jim Harmon (329 comments )
Link Flag
If you don't want them block?
do hog my bandwidth,

I surf at 4+ pages at the same time doing a shuffle between why others load.

nothing is worse than having to sit through advertisements.

what is next foo
pop-up blocking no longer legal?

subsidize my 35$/month on Internet, and I'll have your stinking ads on my home page.

I recommend a felt marker plugin

next they be telling us it is illegal to deface a newspaper.
Posted by ColdMast (186 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Two sides to this
On the one hand, blocking web ads is harmful to publishers AND to users. Many people create websites and instead of charging a premium for the content, they rely on the revenue from ads. This is perfectly acceptable, IMHO. I typically ignore all ads (even boycot companies if their ads are invasive enough to **** me off) but if the website owners are making money from impressions, what's the harm?

Now, as for skipping commercials, I am all for that. We as consumers pay a premium for our television. I pay almost $100 a month for premium programming. I see NO reason that I should be subjected to commercials. Sure, broadcast networks that are freely available over the airwaves, it is acceptable for them to have commercials. But when networks charge customers to watch their content, I do not accept ads. Those networks are simply sticking to an outdated business model and they know it. They believe that the public has gotten used to ads while watching television so they figured they could slip in commercials while no one noticed. Then you have networks like Comedy Central who are now showing an amount of ads that are equal in running time to the content or even worse, the ad time is actually HIGHER than the content. That is pure theft, IMHO. Theft of my money. I already pay them a premium (via my provider) to watch that content. They have no business showing ads.

So, I will not run ad blocking software. If the content I am looking at is free, then I accept it. But for ads to be displayed on a website that I have to pay for? No, that I will not accept. The same goes for television. If I am watching a program on a broadcast network, I won't skip the commercials, but if I am watching Mythbusters, you can be sure that I will not see one single commercial.
Posted by thenet411 (415 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The "real problem"...
The "real problem" for advertisers is that people still have a choice when it comes to viewing ads, and that's what they don't like. Where do they get the idea that I have to look at their ads? I am not legally obligated in any way to view their ads, and as far as I know there is nothing in the Constitution that says I have to. If it's going to show up on my monitor and I don't want to see it, I will take action to filter it out, and no amount of legal action is going to change that.

If advertisers were going to take legal action at some point against third party creators of ad-blocking plugins, the only thing they would succeed in doing would be to drive plugin developers underground. These plugins might become illegal, but you can bet that you would still be able to find them somewhere on the web.
Posted by anomalator (83 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They should do it!
They should sue AdBlock/AdBlock Plus. They'll waste a bunch of money (not exactly waste - give it to their lawyers). At the very best, they may close down U.S. operations, but as Palant rightfully points out all that has to happen is the ad blocking has to move to another country like anywhere in Europe where Copyright law isn't as broad.

Go for it! The case will be "free advertising" for the ad blocking software. If anything there would be a spike in use.

In any event, the Copyright Act was recently amended to allow customers to remove objectionable content from dvd's (See Family Movie Act on Wikipedia). While there was some agreement the Act was unnecessary, pressure was put on Congress to pass it because studios got all huffed up about families skipping soft porn parts of movies. While that may not immediately cover Internet Ads, the same logic applies- making non-permanent copies to remove objectionable conduct is not the same as creating a derivative work. If these content providers push it, they may get an Act all of their own.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The content for advertising model is broken
I would estimate that at least 60-80% of the ads that are pushed in my face when I read the Web or watch TV are completely meaningless to me and will never impact my behavior.

I will never buy an IBM server, I will never buy a Chevy pickup, I will never buy Breck hairspray, etc, etc.

So how is anyone being defrauded if I strip out ads for mortgage refinance, erectile dysfunction drugs, credit assistance, etc etc?

What is the material harm done if I &lt;don't&gt; see an ad that is not applicable to me?

If I look away from ads, as I have been for years, am I defrauding also?

It takes a real twisted sense of logic to see this as illegal.
Posted by DoughboyNJ (77 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Twisted sense of logic...
That's the problem with a world full of self-serving attorneys. When a mere 2.5 million Internet users worldwide are smart enough to use ADP, the issues isn't nearly large enough to warrant an expensive struggle in the U.S. legal system. Those legal thugs will bang this issue around the court system until they've either made enough cash or received enough publicity to justify their efforts.
Posted by TBolt (70 comments )
Link Flag
Ads should die.
Take a tax on my internet connection if you must, but if I don't want to see something, I simply will not. Screw any politician that says otherwise.
Posted by ethana2 (348 comments )
Link Flag
Websites need my clicks more than I need their ads
There is no common sense in any of these arguements. If a person wants the ads blocked, they aren't going to click on them anyway. If a person wants the ads, they aren't going to block them.

I don't mind most ads in spite of the fact that the chances I'll click on one are about 100,000:1. The ones that I would, and do, block in a heartbeat are pop-ups and animations. Use a pop-up ad or an animated one and I won't buy your product even if I'm in the market for it. Sorry guys; live with it.
Posted by dvthex (18 comments )
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How dare you show me over 5 pop up ads under 20 seconds!

I have 5 computers in my house now.
4 for gaming and one just for browsing that has flash uninstalled and edited host file banning intellitext and its evil kins. Also banned by IP address other sites as well and the list keep growing.

the browsing pc is so fast with no ads and popups!
sites load up so quick!
Destroying the quily of browsing by slowing the site down with laggy ads will not make me return.

Do you hear that Matt Drudge?
Posted by inachu (963 comments )
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First guilt trip, now weird legal case
I think web advertising people, including the people at cnet, are reacting poorly to technology in this instance. So now, in order to get people to stop blocking ads, you are giving them a guilt trip, as in a previous article and now as some odd legal case.

I believe you can either take this odd approach or do something constructive like see this as an opportunity to listen to what your customers are saying. This is a new way to receive feedback.

Personally, I don't mind static image ads or text ads. The reason why I typically block ads is because they have gone too far - a la so distracting I can't focus on and read the content. There was the video commercials cnet recently tried. There are "win an ipod", "hit the gnome", "pick your state for mortgage rates", or even very distracting IT ads. All typically flash different colors, use movement, and other things to distract attention away from the things that the user came for in the first place.

I would think that intelligent site owners would advertise the fact that their site uses non-distracting and non-obtrusive ads. I would actually consider white-listing a site that I knew wasn't obnoxious about ads.
Posted by jeromatron (103 comments )
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ABP is great
illegal to block ads?
The only decent clean ads are the google ads. They are text, off to the side, and usually relate to something you're looking for anyway.

I love Adblock Plus. It gets rid of all the annoying and vulgar ads that most other companies insist on making. Do I really want to see some trashy-looking scantily clad woman advertising something that promotes immoral living? No, I think not. (Matthew 5:28) (Let's not even start talking about the annoying video ads, and the low interest loans.)

I'll keep using my ABP to keep these and other ridiculous ads OFF MY SCREEN.
Posted by steve alvis (3 comments )
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The last two paragraphs were the most relevant to the whole article. The source code is open and legal action is a losing proposition. The media companies are losing millions in revenues and legal fees with no end in sight. Under US law, P2P is illegal but that hasn't slowed down P2P. By many estimates, P2P has increased. Browser ad-blocking is a non-issue as about 70%-80% of internet usage is still through IE, which cannot easily block ads. Most importantly, a content provider can never be certain that a web page is going to render exactly the way that it was designed to render when it reaches a person's computer. No legal wrangling will change that. Of course, if you're looking to make the lawyers rich, I'm fine with that too.
Posted by 247mark (51 comments )
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