Are Adblock companies legal?
Today brought the news that Axel Springer, the media giant that recently bought business insider for 343 million is suing a ad blocker. Many would balk at this action, claiming that ad blocking is inherently legal and that this is just a dinosaur grasping for any method they can to grab any dollars on the ground.
The thing is though, ad blockers may very well be illegal in the USA. In fact, very similar cases have been tried in court before, but in a very different medium: Online game hacking. I wont blame you for not initially seeing the parallels, but they are in fact very similar businesses.
Lets compare Adblock Plus and MDY Industries. MDY made and sold a ‘bot’ (a program that played the game for you, to accumulate more in game gold) for Blizzards World of Warcraft. Blizzard was not happy with this as it felt it made the overall economy worse for players and that it was prohibited by their terms of service. Blizzard took MDY to court and won (more on this later).
Adblock Plus gives away software that lets end users block advertisements on all websites. Some websites may have language in their Terms of Service forbidding access with a adblocker enabled.
The similarities if you did not catch them are this: The platform (websites, blizzard) have a contract with a user (gamer, website visitor) saying they cant do something. The user then decides they want to do that bad thing anyways. The offender (MDY, Adblock plus) provides software that lets the user do this bad thing.
There is a law on the books which deals with this very issue and its called Tortious Interference. Wikipedia says: “Tortious interference with contract rights can occur where the tortfeasor convinces a party to breach the contract against the plaintiff, or where the tortfeasor disrupts the ability of one party to perform his obligations under the contract, thereby preventing the plaintiff from receiving the performance promised. The classic example of this tort occurs when one party induces another party to breach a contract with a third party, in circumstances where the first party has no privilege to act as it does and acts with knowledge of the existence of the contract. Such conduct is termed tortious inducement of breach of contract.”...MORE