In a ruling hailed by European consumer advocates, a German court ruled that ad-blocking software is perfectly legal to sell and use on Thursday. Two large German media firms had claimed that the ad-blocking software was “anticompetitive” as it prevented viewers from seeing revenue-producing ads when they visited their sites.
In a more than four-month trial that had the attention of the European legal community, software maker Adblock Plus prevailed over media titans Die Zeit and Handelsblatt.
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The plaintiffs had argued that Adblock limits their ability to compete in the market and costs them revenue because their ads are seen by fewer people. The judge in the case ruled in favor of Adblock Plus, maintaining the right of users to block ads from any website if they choose to.
Of note, the popular ad-blocking software has been downloaded more than 400 million times as of June 2014.
Eyeo, the maker of Adblock Plus, said the firm was extremely happy with the court’s decision.
Quote from Adblock Plus project manager
“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,” Ben Williams, Adblock Plus project manager, noted in a blog post.
“Let’s develop new forms of non-intrusive ads that are actually useful and welcomed by users,” Williams continued in his blog. “Let’s discover ways to make better ads; let’s push forward to create a more sustainable Internet ecosystem for everyone.”
Statement from plaintiffs
The two firms who were plaintiffs in the case published a joint (and rather defiant) statement on Thursday afternoon: “We are still convinced that Adblock Plus is an illegal and anti-competitive practice.” Given the tone of this statement, it sounds like further legal challenges to ad-blocking software may be in the offing.