The number of websites barring access to users of Adblock Plus has been growing as of late. The latest that I found is Listverse, an interesting site full of top 10 lists similar to Cracked.com but without the snark. It’s become the latest site I frequent that no longer displays its content if you have an ad blocker enabled. But at least it’s safer than Forbes.
Still, denying you content is one thing, but threatening legal action is another. The Financial Times reports 17 members of the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) have sent a cease and desist letter to Brave Software and its founder, former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, over the company’s self-titled ad-blocking browser.
The Brave browser takes ad blocking to a whole new level because in the process of loading a web page, it allows users to replace the online ads that come with the page with more privacy-friendly advertising from Brave’s own network.
As you would expect, newspaper publishers, already in an existential fight to survive, take a rather dim view of this.
“Your plan to use our content to sell your advertising is indistinguishable from a plan to steal our content to publish on your own website,” the notice reads.
It goes on to say, “Your apparent plan to permit your customers to make Bitcoin ‘donations’ to us, and for you to donate to us some unspecified percentage of revenue you receive from the sale of your ads on our sites, cannot begin to compensate us for the loss of our ability to fund our work by displaying our own advertising. We expressly decline to participate in any way in Brave’s supposed business model.”
In response, Brave said in a statement that the publishers’ letter was “filled with false assertions” and that the NAA “has fundamentally misunderstood Brave. Brave is the solution, not the enemy.”
Brave said its browser does not replace publishers’ ads with Brave’s advertising, it is not trying to steal profits from publishers, as the NAA asserts, nor will Brave share an “unspecified percentage of revenue.”
Adblock Plus has had a good legal track record. The company behind it, Eyeo, has been sued five times in Germany and won every time. But this is the U.S., and Brave is a different animal from Adblock Plus. I won’t even venture to guess the legal arguments of both sides, but I have to figure Eich has his legal ducks in a row, especially after what he’s been through.