Boston University Journal of Science & Technology Law
Ad-blocking services allow individual users to avoid the obtrusive advertising that both clutters and finances most Internet publishing. Ad-blocking's immense - and growing - popularity suggests the depth of Internet users' frustration with Internet advertising. But its potential to disrupt publishers' traditional Internet revenue model makes ad-blocking one of the most significant recent Internet phenomena. Unsurprisingly, publishers are not inclined to accept ad-blocking without a legal fight. While publishers are threatening suits in the United States, the issues presented by ad-blocking have been extensively litigated in German courts where ad-blocking consistently has triumphed over claims that it represents a form of unfair competition. In this article, I survey the recent German ad-blocking cases and consider the claims publishers are likely to raise against ad-blocking in the imminent American litigation. I conclude that, when the American ad-blocking cases come, they are bound to meet with the fate they suffered in Germany. I argue that the relevant German and American legal frameworks reinforce a similar set of values, including respect for individual autonomy, recognition of the broad social benefits ad-blocking can generate, and an insistence that publishers accept ad-blocking as part of the free market in which they must evolve and innovate in order to compete.
Russell A. Miller, The Legal Fate of Internet Ad-Blocking, 24 B.U. J. Sci. & Tech. L. 299 (2018).