Adblock Plus’ business model ruled illegal by German court

adblock model illegal

 

In a legal victory for German publisher Axel Springer, a German court has ruled that Adblock Plus’ can no longer charge the publisher fees for whitelisting its ads. Currently, Adblock Plus generates revenue via its “Acceptable Ads”  program which allows publishers to pay to bypass Adblock Plus’ ad filters. In order to participate in the Acceptable Ads program, publishers must adhere to a strict set of advertising-quality standards.

 

how adblock works

Large publishers pay Adblock Plus to allow their ads to pass

An unequal set of fees

Not all publishers are treated equally by Adblock Plus’ Acceptable Ads program, however. Most smaller publishers aren’t charged any fee at all to enter the program. Large publishers however, must part with a hefty 30% of their ad revenue in order to participate. That ‘unequal treatment’ between small and large publishers was the basis of Axel Springer’s case.

The appeals court in Cologne decided in favor of Axel Springer on the basis of Germany’s “Act Against Unfair Competition“, ruling that Adblock Plus must grant the same status to Axel Springer as it does to other smaller publishers. The court also ruled in favor of Axel Springer on the grounds that they were ‘compelled’ to participate in the Acceptable Ads program under ‘undue influence’.

Ben Williams, writing on the official Adblock Plus blog explains that Axel Springer will now be treated like “the other 90 percent of companies” on their whitelist:

Because of this finding, we have to change how we offer whitelisting to Axel Springer in Germany. Normally, because Axel Springer would probably qualify as a “large entity” per our rules, they would pay; but because of this ruling, we have to treat them as a special case. Simply put, we can’t accept compensation for the services we might render to them. So, if Springer brings us ads to whitelist, and these fit our criteria, we’ll whitelist them for free just like the other 90 percent of the companies on our whitelist.

This watershed decision is likely to open the door for other lawsuits by large publishers. What is unfair for mega-publisher Axel Springer, is almost certainly also unfair for other large publishers. While the “Act Against Unfair Competition Act” is German law, it is an interpretation of EU directives and may be similarly interpreted in other EU nations.

Which ultimately raises the question: What will Adblock Plus’ business model be if it can’t charge large publishers a fee for whitelisting?

Eyeo says they’re going to appeal the decision.

Rest assured, we’re going to appeal. And we’re confident that Germany’s supreme court (the Bundesgerichtshof) will overturn this one part of the decision.

If that doesn’t work out, I’d like to offer Eyeo the same advice they’ve been giving to publishers:  “Just find another business model”.

Easy, right?

 

  • Thomas

    They are finished. Adblocking will continue to exist, but they are closing all the financial incentives to adblocking companies. This is the plan in Germany.

    • Anne Crowley

      How do you know this is the plan?

    • Zulus

      I hope the close shop

  • Kenneth Ligutom

    NO to BLOCKING ADBLOCK!!!!!!!!!

    • Zulus

      I will continue to charge fees..fees that would not exist at all for 2 ads on a website and the ad is for 2 goddamn books on amazon.
      Most people that scream about adblock and want to keep adblock. are the biggest and largest audience for pornhub and that’s why they want adblock(fappers paradise ) to remain stable.
      I PLAN on even putting all game art under DRM to be sold now. I can now do it on Steam when normally it would have been freebies.
      I won’t be a slave to people who cry for free…when I only eat once a day and pay for what I need.
      You can even read local news anymore where I live there charging fees for local fucking news. That would’ve never happened if the majority of people remove the fucking ad block

  • videofindersTV

    Why does Adblock Plus even exist as a company anyway? It’s a freeware extension. Even uBlock Origin is doing better.

    • Greg

      It’s donation ware. Generally speaking, open source software can generate extreme amounts of income that is “tax free” due to stupid laws about “donations” vs “sales.”

      Also note that they do a large amount of under-the-table negotiation, such as this. In the same way that google and facebook and twitter sell user information, AdBlock Plus acts as a company that is giving information on what ads users are most likely to tollerate and most likely to click.

      • Ben Fila Destianopolous

        Actually they have a very clear business model. And it’s extortion. They charge companies for whitelisting.

  • Adam

    Hopefully if this becomes more common, Adblock Plus will just simply refuse to allow them the whitelist option at ALL. If you’re gonna be whiny and ungrateful for the option to show your crappy ads to people for a fee, you shouldn’t have any option at all and they should just block 100% of your ads.