Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Adblock Software Is Legal

District Court Hamburg 416 HK O 159 / 14District Court Munich 37 O 11637 / 14

The German Adblock Plus software of Eyo GmbH, which is freely downloadable from the internet and which enables the internet user to block advertisements of the website being visited, has caused major German media companies such as RTL, ProSieben Sat1, Axel Springer, Zeit Online or Handelsblatt to take legal actions at the district courts in Hamburg, Munich and Cologne. The legal issues mainly touch on unfair competition, copyright infringement and anti-trust violation. As these legal matters are quite similarly regulated across EU member states by EU law the decisions by the German courts and argumentations contained in them are of interest for English jurisdiction.

The Hamburg District Court went first and found that the company does not infringe the rules of fair competition because it allows the user of the software to freely decide by its setting options whether to block advertisements at all or particular ones. It is therefore the user who blocks the ad.

The Munich District Court followed the argument of the judges in Hamburg and added that the company does not take part in an infringement by the user of the website owner´s (plaintiffs´) copyrights. The mere visit of the free websites while using the adblock software does not constitute the infringing use of copyrights contained in the website. Also, the company does not violate anti-trust law because its software has not a major market share at this juncture.