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Ad blockers secure another victory

News, 01 April 2016

MUNICH: Advertisers and online publishers have been dealt a blow after a German court threw out a lawsuit brought by Süddeutsche Zeitung against Adblock Plus.

The German newspaper had challenged the company's ad blocking software and its controversial "acceptable ads" initiative that charges some large publishers to run vetted ads.

Süddeutsche Zeitung had argued that its readers effectively entered into a contract in which they accepted viewing ads that the publisher served, but this was rejected by the Munich court, the Guardian reported.

The regional court ruled that the law does not exist to uphold publishers' business models and instead it is up to them to innovate to address the problem.

This was a point taken up by Ben Williams, the communications manager at Adblock Plus, who posted a blog saying that users have the right to block ads because the court ruled that no such contract exists.

"Additionally, the judge ruled that by offering publishers a way to serve ads that ad-blocking users will accept, the Acceptable Ad initiative provides them an avenue to monetise their content, and therefore is favourable, not disadvantageous, to them," he said in comments reported by the Ars Technica news portal.

Adblock Plus and its parent company, Eyeo, have faced four previous unsuccessful challenges to its ad blocking technology from Axel Springer, one of the largest digital publishers in Europe, business title Handelsblatt, broadcaster RTL and others.

However, it is widely expected that the latest ruling in Munich will not mark an end to the legal challenges against Eyeo, which is preparing itself for a possible appeal.

Williams ended his post on a conciliatory note, but he emphasised the court's view that it is the responsibility of publishers to innovate.

"Look, we don't want to pile on publishers here. We know that the transition from print to online is still a huge challenge," he wrote. "But we view ad blocking much like the court: as an opportunity, or a challenge, to innovate."

Data sourced from Guardian, Ars Technica; additional content by Warc staff