LG Hamburg: Adblockers do not constitute copyright infringement
Axel Springer, one of Germany’s largest publishers, has now suffered a bitter defeat at the Hamburg Regional Court. In a potentially groundbreaking ruling, the judges have confirmed that adblockers are in no way a violation of copyright law. However, the publisher, which owns the BILD newspaper among others, will certainly not be satisfied with allowing filtering offers against online advertising.
A years-long dispute
The subject of the trial is anything but new. Already a few years ago, the publisher went to court to declare war on so-called adblockers. After the attempt at that time failed, the traditional company went to court again. The plaintiffs were by no means more successful. Finally, the Hamburg Regional Court reaffirmed that such a filter is not prohibited. Although “Eyeo” was once again a provider of adblock software in the dock, the publisher’s argumentation was different this time. The lawsuit filed by Axel Springer’s lawyers focused this time on a violation of copyright. After all, they said, the “intervention” of an adblocker improperly impairs the source text as well as the general editorial content.
As a basis for their argumentation, the Group’s attorneys cited a judgment handed down by the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court almost ten years ago. At that time, however, the judges focused on software for cheaters. According to the judges of the Hamburg Regional Court, however, a settlement is not an option in this case. After all, an adblocker only hides individual elements of a source code. This does not result in any changes. Furthermore, the judges of the Hamburg Regional Court did not consider the necessary level of creation to be given. In the 2012 ruling used by the plaintiff as an analogy, however, the cheat code rewrote part of the code. This is a reworking prohibited under §69c UrhG.
Rejoicing on the side of the defendants
The “Springer Group” should of course be anything but pleased with the verdict handed down in the 1st instance. As one can imagine, it looks entirely different on the other side. The programmer of the adblocker in question is the company Eyeo. It was represented in court by CEO Till Faida, who is now pleased about the court’s confirmation of the freedom of design of Internet users. This expressed itself following the ruling as follows:
“The Hamburg Regional Court sets an important precedent here”
The last word has not yet been spoken
It is quite understandable that the publishing group is upset about the possibility of adblockers. After all, the company has increasingly built up a gigantic Internet presence with its newspapers in recent years. Clearly, a move into the realm of pure online journalism is being prepared here. But how is this to be financed, if not by paying subscribers or as an advertising platform? Accordingly, it is hardly surprising that the publisher announced its intention to take legal action directly after the ruling. The publisher’s legal department has no doubt that these legal remedies have a chance of success. We are curious to see whether the dispute about the justification of adblockers will eventually come to an end.