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Is It Illegal to Use an AdBlocker?

Are ad blocker programs illegal for you to use?

We most likely agree that online ads can be irritating and sometimes downright obtrusive to our browsing experience.

So, it’s only natural that, if we could, we would somehow minimize seeing ads, if not somehow get rid of them altogether.

An ad blocker does exactly that.

It prevents pop-up ads, auto-play videos and other annoying ploys designed to attract our attention.

Maybe you’re wondering: Is that legal?

The short answer is: YES

“Block that ad!”

In fact, multiple court cases have already upheld your user rights to filter our own “http requests”—to decide which content and other information enter our network system and devices.

An ad blocker is just another tool in a long list of online security and privacy tools that enable us to do this.

Of course, this means that it’s not so popular with advertisers, publishers and website owners who depend on advertising for revenue.

Ben Williams, a blogger for Adblock Plus, wrote this:

“It may surprise readers of this blog to know that some advertiser groups believe blocking ads is illegal. They are upset that ad blockers impede their multibillion-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.”

It’s not ad-blocking that’s illegal.

It’s the circumvention of ‘technological measures’ that is.

Ad blockers don’t just block ads.

Most current-generation ad blockers have an additional layer of technology that goes around technological defenses of ad-block-detection scripts used by publishers.

And that’s where the rub is.

There are some things you can’t do.

Circumvention of access controls is expressly against the law in Europe, the U.S. and in all signatory-nations of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Copyright Treaty.

The anti-circumvention law is a legal framework on copyright and related rights enacted for fostering “substantial investment in creativity and innovation, including network infrastructure, and lead in turn to growth and increased competitiveness…both in the area of content provision and information technology and more generally across a wide range of industrial and cultural sectors. This will safeguard employment and encourage new job creation.”

In short, you’re free to block ads, but interfering with the publisher’s right to serve or restrict access to copyrighted content in a manner they approve of (access control) is illegal.

Here’s an example that might explain it:

If a publisher uses access-control technologies, such as BlockAdblock, to prevent users—or restrict browsers equipped with ad-blocking plug-in—from accessing or selectively downloading their site’s copyrighted content without the accompanying advertising, that “defense” should be left alone to be implemented.

Facebook is one of the companies known for successfully fighting back hard against ad blockers. After several rounds of modifying the code for presenting ads on their site, plug-ins are unable to identify the ads and effectively block them, without causing the design of the website to crash or be less usable.

As you can see, this simple issue gets somewhat complicated, fast.

The bottom line?

You have the right to filter your browsing experience, in the same way publishers have the right to choose who they serve their content to, and make money from, in the process.

How can we all get along?

The utopian version would be privacy experts and content creators coming together to develop new forms of nonintrusive ads that are useful, relevant and possibly even welcome to users.

Until then…

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