Skip to content(if available)orjump to list(if available)

Eyeo wins German copyright decision, sets legal precedent for who ‘owns’ HTML


> developer of best-in-class ad-filtering technology found in millions of browsers and products around the world

I must admit, this is pretty funny... there is "ublock" which users are tricked into installing (instead of the real ublock origin), which uses their "acceptable ads"

and people have said that their business model is based on extorting ad companies to pay them to not block their ads


Yes, Eyeo is a dodgy company that misrepresents their product and how they actually really make money from users & advertisers.

As one of the largest ad blockers around they also try and extinguish any potential competition before it has a chance to establish itself.

When I initially released my ad blocker for the iPhone and Mac – Magic Lasso Adblock ( they attempted to stop its distribution through the Apple App Stores.

They sent legal threats directly to myself and then to Apple claiming that they own the term 'adblock' and demanded that my product stop using that term in any marketing or App Store keywords. This went on for months with them constantly pushing less and less plausible evidence for their ownership of the term.

I eventually told their enforcement loonies to stop contacting me and provided evidence to Apple that their claims are baseless (which meant their claims directly to Apple could also be ignored). They eventually stopped but I can see how their tactics could discourage any new entrants in the space.


That's ridiculous. They themselves adopted the Adblock term from the original open source project that they initially derived their product from ( If any trademark exists for Adblock, it's probably not theirs.


Reminds me of where a bunch of billboard owners in Times Square (New York City) tried to sue Sony over digitally replacing the advertisements in scenes in a Spiderman Movie. Luckily the judge in that case came to a similar conclusion.

I'm still dubious the city skylines can be copyrighted - NYC believes they own the copyright on the city's skyline. I'm also dubious that the NYC Subway can copyright the route indicators (letters in circles).


Going after photographers who have the subway signs in the background is one thing, but going after businesses for copying their font seems entirely different to me.

They're a corporation who paid a lot of money for the rights to it, how is is different than Walmart or Netflix going after companies for using their fonts?


The GP's linked article[0] doesn't say anything about fonts. It says that the MTA sued someone for using the letter 'N' in a circle on a T-shirt. Not even the same color scheme.

Judging from the examples on one of the MTA's branding pages[1], there doesn't seem to be anything particularly unique about the font they're using. They don't even mention it by name. Other sources claim the official signage is a mix of Helvetica and Akzidenz Grotesk. In any case, fontface designs are not copyrightable in the US. Fonts can be (as programs/data) but that isn't really relevant here.




Someone paying a lot of money for something doesn't appear to be a good argument for establishing a property interest for the people who paid such funds. I'm unclear what interest society has in protecting fonts. It seems like people will pay for the creation of more fonts than society can ever consume without the benefit of any such protection meaning society has no interest in extending any property interest despite any artistic merit or worth of such efforts.

At least movies cost millions of dollars and presumably we as a society will get more books if authors don't also have to make french fries. What protection do fonts need?


For the last few United or Delta flights I took, I had seen their ads that said they do this and that “contact less” - pretty standard in the covid world.

Right under the ad was a gigantic message that said “contact-less trademark owned by and used with permission of EMVCo, LLC”

I can imagine the airline’s surprise if they have originally printed ads without this.


I've never understood all the hoopla about fonts, or why anyone would pay money for one. Heck, I made my own font when I blew a ROM for the character generator for a terminal I made. It never occurred to me it was copyrightable.

I've read several articles bloviating about this or that font, describing it like a wine taster would write about a wine, and would just come away rolling my eyes.


I've helped on a few jobs that required representing the skyline of London (in advertising, for example) and my clients have always been very careful to ensure that modern landmarks aren't entirely accurate, to avoid this kind of complication.




Is "acceptable ads" really a bad thing? I'm not opposed to seeing any ads; I just don't want badly behaved ones. And is there a less bad alternative to accomplish that?


Yes, it's a bad thing.

Because you can't choose what's acceptable, they do.

You won't decide the topic, format, quantity, density, duration, nature or interruption type. Which is different for you, me, or your children.

What's more, ads are not made for your benefit, ever, but to the benefit of the advertiser which may (but statistically more likely may not) align with yours.

And also because:

- the incentive gets twisted, which means you can't trust ublock on the long run.

- unkown unknowns means down the road, some ads will manage to track you or serve malicious content despite ublock filtering.

- ads paid content is a terrible business model which take a price people are not wired to assess nor realize they pay for something they disguise as free yet has an impact on the entire society. Not a great thing to encourage.

And I say all that as someone who gets revenue from ads.


> you can't trust ublock on the long run

Why is this? Would you also say this for other long running open source projects which have never breach the trust of their users?


Right, any idea on how to keep content accessible and people with paychecks maintaining it?


> Because you can't choose what's acceptable, they do.

Not exactly the acceptable ads must conform to the standard that is defined by the acceptable ads Committee which consists of publishers users, and distribution. Something like that.


> because you can't choose

That seems like just an implementation detail. If users are able to choose/vote what is "acceptable" that seems like a concept worth trying.


As far as I'm concerned, all advertisers can go to hell. If a majority of advertisers had behaved themselves we would never have invented ad blockers[0] in the first place. This industry has proven time and time again that they are the scum of the fucking earth and cannot be trusted. I for one am tired of giving them any chances.

[0] pop up blockers, originally


Totally agree with this. Even if advertisers weren't tracking me everywhere (which is a whole other massive issues), advertising even at its least offensive is designed to generate a want or need I didn't have before. I don't need to be convinced to spend ever more money on the latest gadget, no matter how "cool" I might find it. It's all just advertisers revving that hedonistic treadmill.

If you live in the city, advertisers manipulate you every waking minute of your day, bombarding you from billboards, on tv, on the internet, and are constantly shoving their disgusting garbage in front of your eyes in new ways; at petrol pumps, on your tv menu, right in front of you on a taxi cab.

Worse still, the more you pay to avoid this trash, the more you become attractive to them as someone with money to spend. I can't remove the ads as a walk about the city, but for damn sure I'll remove them wherever I can in my home. Pi hole, ublock origin, sponsor block etc, all running to keep this crap out of my life. If people wont pay money for what creators are making, and they can't provide it for free, I'm fine with it going away. It probably wasn't worthwhile to begin with - only "addictive".

Ads are a scourge and make me sick. There are no "acceptable ads".


Yes this. I've had it with ads that pop up filling up the screen while I'm reading halfway through a sentence, spewing cookies all over the place, and loading megabytes of JavaScripts on a 2G connection.

They can all pay the consequences now of me blocking them.

If they had been well-behaved and stuck to inline ads with no cookies, I would have left them there.


Wholeheartedly agree. The world would be a better place without ads; less pointless consumerism and less money for companies that abuse basic human instincts to shove an ever-increasing amount of ads down our throats, without any care about societal effects so as long as it suits their bottom-line.


I'm happy to watch ads so I don't have to pay for Instagram, Google Search & Docs, Gmail, Twitch, Youtube and most of my podcasts. I wouldn't be able to afford it if I couldn't pay with scrolling of my mouse past such ad (or my data, no worries)


> I'm not opposed to seeing any ads; I just don't want badly behaved ones.

While I support this sentiment, a definition of "badly behaved ads" which is based on whether or not the advertiser paid money to some third party is just not a definition I can live with.


That's not the definition though, is it?


I think that is a legitimate question. The issue becomes there is no standard or method to ensure acceptable ads. A static ad without javascript is acceptable to me. Maybe not to someone else.

But ... the ad industry would never accept a static ad more akin to a billboard than a tracking device. Many times in the past malware has found its way into networks run by the more highly regarded ad systems.

If a content publisher refuses to let people read articles without a subscription or with an ad blocker, I am ok with that. It is their choice.


> a static ad more akin to a billboard than a tracking device

The sad part is that you assume that modern day billboards aren't tracking you. All you need is a camera, a tiny computer and some AI. Once walked by a fully electronic billboard where the slideshow crashed, the log it displayed listed everything it could identify about people passing by, age, gender, height, hair color, emotional state, ... .


> the ad industry would never accept a static ad more akin to a billboard than a tracking device.

Is JS synonymous with tracking? Why can't you just track server side? I don't see how removing JS from ads would prevent FB from targeting me on my FB feed.


Static non javascript file, hosted by the site owner.


I wonder how many users install an product that claims to be an "ad blocker" so they can see different ads


Privacy Badger may be useful to you. It blocks trackers, which just so happens to prevent some ads from loading.

I've seen websites ask me to disable my ad blocker when I only have Privacy Badger enabled (on top of Firefox's built-in behaviour).


Banksy said this in relation to billboard type ads but it applies to online advertising too. Is there an acceptable rock you would allow someone to throw at your head?

>Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.


It seems complicated and pointless to keep an acceptable ads list, if I'm going to block some, why not block them all? While I only really care about blocking badly behaved ads, the easiest way to do so is to block all of them.

Also, the fact that they are taking money to get on the 'acceptable ads' list looks a little shady. It could be (let's be generous) misinterpreted as a third party just elbowing in to get a cut of the transaction, like some kind of protection racket. I'd worry this sort of thing might draw unwanted attention in some jurisdictions, even if it really isn't warranted.

Why bother going with the solution that is both technically and ethically more complicated? Just do the dumb thing and block everything.


> and people have said that their business model is based on extorting ad companies to pay them to not block their ads

i mean, it is. ABP is basically modern day protection racket


If it is, I like this protection racket.

Inflamatory statements aside, and whether or not online advertising is acceptable in its current form, there is a need they are fulfilling. If people don't find ads to be hospitable to their user experience then people don't find ads to be hospitable to their user experience, period. You can argue why all you want, in the meantime, ABP is there to get rid of them for you.


But ABP isn't there to get rid of them for you, they're there to get paid for allowing you to see them. Not only that, they're trying to weaken the other adblockers that are there to get rid of ads for you.


No, they are there to get companies to pay them hundreds of thousands of $ in order to get them to unblock their advertising.

They'll also mistakenly introduce bugs to destroy your on-site metrics if you don't pay up.


In a protection racket, you're paying for protection from the protectors, no third party involved.

In this case they're a middle man between the abusers and the abused, so I think it's more like prostitution.


Feels like a bad time to bite the hand that was willing to defend a precedent that serves everyone (if publishers were successful there, they'd have a much easier time arguing in other countries for "harmonization" legislation).


Precedent or not, they have no ability to enforce any of such ridiculous claim had it gone the other way, it's like certain governments trying to 'ban' encryption.


It's a good time to think about how to fund legal defense for free / open source software, and not rely on alliances with scammy companies.


Let's hope their lawyers don't read HN. :-)


If you can read German, the blogger Sascha Pallenberg wrote an in-depth piece in 2013 about the scammy nature of eyeo:


Huh? What does eyeo have to do with uBlock? Adblock plus is their thing.


It is officially one "team" now

Historically, it always seemed like it was one company though as Adblock codebase has been based on Adblock plus codebase for years, and they both use Acceptable ads.

Edit to avoid confusion: Fake "uBlock" (not to be confused with uBlock Origin) is owned by AdBlock


... and what does that have to do with uBlock? (EDIT: and if you edit in answers to questions into your original comment, please mark that as an edit)


That article is about the team(s) behind Adblock and Adblock Plus. It has nothing to do with uBlock Origin.


lol ublock origin blocks that second link


Adblock/ABP != uBlock Origin


AdBlock Plus and uBlock are owned by the same company, uBlock is not uBlock Origin, and the history is confusing.

µBlock/uBlock was the original, released in 2014 by Gorhill. In 2015, fed up with support request, he transferred the project to Chris Aljoudi. He then forked his own project, most likely due to a disagreement over donations, it became uBlock Origin. Eventually most people moved from uBlock to the better maintained uBlock Origin. Eyeo eventually bought uBlock and added their "acceptable ads" option.

So you can't say that uBlock is a fake, it is actually the original project. But the one made by the original author is uBlock Origin.

Yes it is confusing, but whatever, get uBlock Origin.


The current "uBlock" is not the original project, "uBlock Origin" is the original project.

The essence of a project is not the location of its repo on GitHub, it's who worked on it since it was first created, i.e. the commit history. If you look at the commit history of "uBlock Origin", it goes back without interruption to June 23rd, 2014, back to when I created the repo.[1]

The claim that the current "uBlock" is the "official", "original" project is a marketing pitch by the people behind it, who I call out as purposefully deceitful.[2]

* * *




For some reason I wasn't aware that ABP supported "Acceptable Ads".

How does Eyeo make money?


They allow certain search engines’ search-ads to pass through for a nominal fee. Those search engines happily support Eyeo because it’s easier to have a single, friendly, and known enemy that dominates the market.


> How does Eyeo make money?

They charge advertisers to be part of their 'acceptable ads' scheme that then allows these ads to be shown to users of their ad blocking products (ADP, Adblock Plus, Ublock).




I'm confused. The HTML on a page should be automatically copyrighted to the author already. It's absolutely an expression of creative work just like a book, or software, or music.

That being said, it doesn't follow that it would make it illegal for any technology or any consumer to alter a website page appearance. You are free to modify copyrighted works as long as you don't distribute that work.


I think the argument would be that a browser add-on, such as an ad-blocker, is essentially redistributing the work because it is modifying the HTML of another author and then displaying it to the browser user. Of course it is really the browser user who is doing the modifying - the extension is just their tool - I'm not sure if that is the basis of the ruling.


> [The ad-blocker is] modifying the HTML of another author and then displaying it to the browser user

But ... that's what the browser itself does. We aren't shown raw HTML, we're shown a user-friendly rendering of that HTML.


Yes, but this kind of understanding can't be used by a "media" company infamous for its rag tabloids (and a former editor-in-chief fired because he fucked his employees and kept a laminated fake copy of a divorce certificate to prove that he is really, really, really not married) to force users to watch their ads. Have you no business sense??!? /s

By the way, Axel Springer SE, the "media" company suing, is investing heavily into the US market.




The way I see it, an ad-blocker is like a bottle of white-out. Say you buy a book and take it home, inside the book you find ads on various pages so you take your bottle of white-out and mark them out. You haven't caused any copyright infringement because you're not redistributing your book that has the white-out on it.


> You haven't caused any copyright infringement because you're not redistributing your book that has the white-out on it.

Even if you did… since when has distributing a used book with extra notes, highlighting, or even white-out in place been considered copyright infringement? You're selling an existing, authorized copy—even if it was later modified—not making a new one.


This puts services like Pocket or Instapaper under doubt.

While in a browser the "reader mode" or an and blocker may reformat content and remove ads, etc, it's done strictly for the browser's user, the modified version is not distributed.

But e.g. Pocket allows to share a "pocketed" article with all the ads and most formatting removed; they even advertise some articles on their homepage. This may count as distribution of a derived work. They of course give the credits and a link to the original, but I wonder if some publishers might be unhappy enough to challenge this.


> is essentially redistributing the work because it is modifying the HTML of another author and then displaying it to the browser user

There are still only two legal entities involved - the operator of the web site, and the user displaying a page from the web site. What's the third entity that would redistribute a modified work to the user displaying a page from the web site?


Interesting. So could I publish a modified book, by publishing a piece of software, that transforms a known book into a new book. Then the user would be doing the modification.

Would that not be legal, as long as my software doesn't contain pieces of the original book copied verbatim?


IANAL (and in the EU) - I believe you're not allowed to republish/redistribute the modified copy of the book. That said, your software is still legal for an end user to use on any book they own.

Same thing here, if the modifications were happening on the server side and then sent to your browser that's probably not legal


I can buy a photography book and view it with super cool vintage Rayban Kalichrome sunglasses thereby altering the colors of the photographs.


You can sell software that decompiles, disassembles and recompiles software. Same thing with software that manipulates and edits existing copyrighted videos.

Publishing it, however, is where copyright law kicks in. Publishing is a specific right that you need to be granted by the rights holders.

I don't see how software running on a client's computer that changes rendering of copywritten work is the same thing as publication. Browsers, video players and Adobe's products all allow users to view and modify copyrighted works on their machines, and that isn't publication at all.


It definitely should be legal, especially as the user would still have to get the original book to use it.


rather - you could sell a pair of glasses with yellow-tinted glass that transforms how any book looks. that's perfectly fine.


You can in some cases. Copyright law varies from country to country, check with a lawyer if you need advice, and all that... If what remains of the copyright work is less than 10% then your copy is legal. When you modify something it becomes a derived work, the question is when you have modified it enough that it is considered a unique work and not derived.

Note too that trademark law can still apply. So your Harry Potter can be in trouble even if the only thing that remains is the name and the universe. (You can do a Harry Potter as the horse in your western novel)


That'd mean that automated Photoshop filters would also be this same category, so would Snapchat, that doesn't make sense...


> You are free to modify copyrighted works as long as you don't distribute that work.

That's...not quite right.

You are free to modify a legally owned physical copy of a copyrighted work (and to redistribute that modified copy), but you are not free to make a derivative work by copying-with-modifications, except (in the US) insofar as that falls within the bounds of fair use (and where it does, you can also distribute it.)


You can make a derivative work as much as you want to, you just can't redistribute it.


> You can make a derivative work as much as you want to, you just can't redistribute it.

Well, no one is likely to know if you don't redistribute it, but legally, no, you may not:

17 USC § 106: “Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following: [...] (2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;”


Modifying the HTML via a browser extension makes creates a derivative work that Axel Springer was claiming infringes on their rights as the original author.

Creating the derivative work in itself would indeed not be a problem but further distribution of that derived work would be a problem. Axel Springer seems to have been arguing that it is the extension developer that is responsible for "distributing" that modified work to the user.

The court seems to have decided that instead this falls under what in US law would probably be called fair use that happens after the user has received a copy of the content instead of a new content that you (using the extension) created. All very logical of course but the law is not always that logical.


> That being said, it doesn't follow that it would make it illegal for any technology or any consumer to alter a website page appearance.

I think the page owners tried to argue that the page presented to the viewer was a single creative work / piece of art and that the ad blockers where defacing/misrepresenting that piece of art . As I understand the court basically decided that the final composition of the page lacked an overreaching creative process required to qualify.

> The HTML on a page should be automatically copyrighted to the author already.

<html> . Take that internet I own you now.


It seems the language is backwards; it's not that the HTML document is not copyrightable but rather the resulting web page constructed by your browser from that HTML which is not copyrightable.


> It's absolutely an expression of creative work just like a book, or software, or music.

Bollocks. It's a data markup language.


So are musical notes


How about the screws and bolts on an original piece of furniture? Are they excluded from the creative work because they're some sort of standard item?


Just taking a minute here to say that Eyeo went on a copyright offensive to all ad blockers with "ad block" in the name saying it infringed on their brand.

Very bad actors in this space, and their motivation here in this suit is to continue their AdBlock racket of allowing ads to their users for those advertisers that pay.


Absolutely agree that they're bad actors, but it's also unfair to say "motivation here in this suit" when they were defendants who chose not to settle based on a good chance of prevailing on the merits as they did. If we vilify parties for defending themselves in court, even when we disagree with their choices, we make it ever so slightly more possible for might to define right.

> The 2021 copyright lawsuit was brought against eyeo by Axel Springer [... and] was a new challenge to a 2018 Federal Court case, also brought against eyeo by Axel Springer, which was previously decided in favor of eyeo.




I'm nog allowed tot print a new copy of The Hobbit, due to copyright.

However, if I buy a legal copy of the Hobbit and edit it using whiteout and pen that would be perfectly legal (as far as I understand). I could even sell my modified copy.

Isn't this basically what an in-browser ad filter does? Or is my understanding wrong here?


Somewhat offtopic trivia, but up until 2012 in the US, you were actually allowed to print a new copy of The Hobbit. Many publishers with no relationship to Tolkien or his estate have done this. Due to a quirk in international copyright law, it had entered the public domain in the US.

A court ruling in 2012 restored copyright to the work, which is super weird since there are a lot of unauthorized copies still floating around.


This sounded far too intriguing to not google a bit. I'm guessing you're talking about this?

> J.R.R. Tolkien first tangled with copyright law in the mid-1960s when ACE Books discovered that the copyrights for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit had not been properly secured in the United States by his American publisher. ACE Books opportunistically published unauthorized paperback editions of those books in the United States. Until that time Tolkien’s books had only been available in hardback. Tolkien and his publishers reacted quickly by publishing their own authorized paperback editions, but in order to secure copyright in the United States again Tolkien was forced to revise both stories (thus confusing the issue of what is canonical in Middle-earth for his readers).

> There remained a question over the status of the ACE Books edition until several years ago, when a long-running complaint by the Tolkien Estate was finally settled with payment to the author’s heirs. Until that time some people in the entertainment and publishing industry argued that there was still a copyright “hole” pertaining to Tolkien’s works in the United States.



They're referring to Golan v Holder, which affirmed that the US could retroactively restore copyright to works that had fallen into the public domain in the US under the US's old copyright laws, but which remained protected by foreign copyright laws which the US had adjusted to be in compliance with. So basically The Hobbit, like many other works, was copyright protected in other countries, but had fallen into the public domain in the US; when the US agreed to honor the foreign copyrights, it became copyrighted in the US as well.


Turns out I'm wrong, at least in Germany and France.

Authors have "moral rights of integrity" over their work, which means you can't modify a work without permission of the author, even if you own it.


I'm mildly skeptical that a court would accept this reasoning in cases of works with many copies and someone making a change to one such personal copy.


Well that's a bloody stupid idea.


Is it? Is it that simple?

I write a book about the suffering of a particular minority. The book sells internationally and earns awards. My name becomes recognised globally.

Someone buys many copies of the book, modifies them to say the opposite of my intended point, making me look like, say, a racist, and distributes it.

Now is it stupid?

My point is your name being attached to a particular piece of work means you're name is directly associated with that work and what it represents. Any changes to the work could alter the perception that others have of you, towards the negative, and you've done nothing wrong.

We've recently seen what happens in a post-truth society when someone says something (usually online) that's not true about another person and the negativity generated towards that person happens before the truth is revealed (and promptly ignored anyway.)

Do we really need more of that?


You forgot the important, the moral part is only enforced if: “the modification in question does not have to be detrimental to the author's honor or reputation in order to qualify as a violation of the right of integrity.”


If you made software that took a legally obtained copy of "The Hobbit", modified it locally according to a scripted patch, then displayed that to the user, then that would be similar. Adblocking happens locally. This is similar to game mods.


This example actually popped up in my Patent class. This is what I remembered.

You are allowed to create a copy (and thus also in printed form) of copyrighted material, _only_ for private and personal use. i.e you _must_ recreate it yourself.

As for selling a modified version, if it isn't modified enough than you still infringe copyright of the original author. With "enough" being something that needs to be defended in court if challenged.


> As for selling a modified version, if it isn't modified enough than you still infringe copyright of the original author. With "enough" being something that needs to be defended in court if challenged.

Hang on. Does "modified version" mean the same physical copy I bought and then modified, or a copy I made myself and then modified?

The way you worded that sounds like you're talking about both, but the former makes no sense. Why would it be a copyright violation to buy a book, white-out one sentence, and resell it? And elsjaako was definitely talking about the former.


> Why would it be a copyright violation to buy a book, white-out one sentence, and resell it? //

Because of exhaustion of rights working on first sale of right to _make_ derivative copyright works not being exhausted on sale.

In USA under Fair Use you have pretty liberal rights compared to most other copyright regimes AFAICT. In the UK we don't have rights, not even under Fair Dealing, to modify works, never mind sell modified works (without permission of the copyright holder); they made an exception to allow caching to make web browsing lawful!

I can't buy your book, edit out part I don't like and resell it as your book, and I can't sell it as my book without your permission. Not even one copy. That's reasonable to me (unless there was a [implied] license for modifications to be made, say). I should of course be allowed to modify the physical copy I purchased as that's ordinary use and copyright shouldn't interfere with that.


Exactly, I meant modifying a physical copy (like a physical book from a shelf in a store), never actually copying anything in there.

I would be very interested to learn I was wrong about that.


That reminds me of the PureFlix case years ago. Their shtick was editing movies to be more "Christian-friendly". So what they did was heavily edit a movie and burn it to a disk and ship it to you. What they did was they also bought a legit copy of the movie on disk and damaged the disk to unusuable. They shipped you both, so you had a working edited disk and a broken original.

IIRC, they lost the case but I do see the merits in their arguments.


Can you have your kid or personal assistant do that for you?

Over-the-trope example: A wealthy old English aristocrat's head butler brings in his master's evening paper at the kitchen door. Then snips out any stories "which might disagree with master's digestion", before presenting the paper to the old blue blood.




What about if I bought a book from a bookstore then I wrote in the margins or highlighted some text and then sold it to used bookstore?


In my personal opinion the modification is insubstantial so for copyright purposes you haven't created a derivative work. There are probably ways you could make it substantial but how would the rights holders ever know. It might technically be a tort but there's no damage; what would a rights holder win?


Metaphors don't work here. Real browser pages have code which could conceivably have EULAs, plus you may be in a EULA for a paid service, you have cookie agreements involved (and a similar question could be raised, is your browser obligated to return cookies once given?), the page may also already be interactive (if modifying a page is stipulated to be wrong, what about browser automation driving something "intended" to be manual process? There are contracts the page provider has with their advertisers. Things other than the end-user or page provider may already have had their fingers in the pie (ISPs blocking specific pages, even replacing ads with their own in the network). There's a lot of parties involved in a modern page with all sorts of relationships to each other. There's also a scale here; it's one thing to modify your own copy of a book but if you provide a service that modifies other people's copies (computer style, with virtually no effort in a fraction of a second), how is that different from publishing a modified copy? What impact do those differences have on the question?

All of these things are important and none translate into the book, or any other simple physical metaphor.

My summary answer would be that the status of ad blocking legally is deeply unclear if you really start analyzing it, in all sorts of ways, in ways that different legal jurisdictions will almost certainly rule differently on for all the different individual questions, and almost certainly with no coherence between the individual rulings.


This is only about copyright and copyright only applies to distribution of materials. You are free to modify any copyrighted work for your own purposes as long as you don't distribute your modifications. Distribution is the key.


Then, while I'm not convinced it is anywhere near as separable as you believe, at the very least the book metaphor completely fails to capture the ability to distribute modifications as a first-class entity existing on its own, in this case, block lists and other HTML modification instructions, that can result in millions of people getting the "same" modification in their hands.

I called this the "patch hole" in the law over 20 years ago, in analogy to the Unix patch tool, and I still don't think I've seen a legal system cleanly grapple with what it means to be able to distribute modifications on their own. It is a qualitatively different process and result than having to distribute modified versions directly. It rather directly faces a deontology vs. consequentialism question... if two different processes (distributing changed contents directly vs. distributing patches to an end user and providing combination software) produce the exact same end results, on what basis will the law decide that one is OK and the other is not, since allowing people to distribute change lists provides an effective 100% workaround to the existing illegality of distributing changed works?

I'm not trying to offer an answer here, I'm merely trying to establish that talking about "books" isn't going to give a good grasp on this situation. The metaphor simply doesn't work. It's far too simple to capture too many relevant issues.


This isn't quite right. The law doesn't stop you from selling a book where you have written in the margins, you just can't make and distrubute additional copies of the the new combined work. Though perhaps you could buy books to annotate in bulk and then distribute those legitimat but annotated copies. Actually, that is a decent metaphor for what an ad blocker is doing.


Or, you can buy a ClearPlay DVD player (and, I guess they make Bluray players now too). RCA had a similar device as well, but I think it vanished from the market.

It's a DVD player with a service that downloads timecodes to skip all the naughty bits in movies that you play on it.


> I could even sell my modified copy.

Could you? I don’t find that at all obvious.


You can sell your copy, no matter what you have done to it, at least by the First Sale Doctrine in the US, and similar elsewhere.

What you can't do is sell the rights to the modified work, since they're in addition to the original work. When/if the copyright in the original expires, then you can (and you will have your own copyright in the modifications if they're substantial enough).

Crucially, you also can't make any copies of the modified work and sell or distribute them, so your derivative will be a legally-enforced one-off.

It doesn't mean that you can't profit from your modification of another's work (maybe someone will pay for your marginalia), but it does mean that you can't profit from the unauthorized duplication of another's work while their copyright subsists.


> You can sell your copy, no matter what you have done to it, at least by the First Sale Doctrine in the US, and similar elsewhere.

If you have a personal created copy of a copyrighted product which you do not have the rights to, you don't have a right to sell this copy right? (Specifically talking about the copy and not the modification)


The first-sale doctrine says you can sell your copy of a copyrighted work. But a copy that you've edited is no longer a copy of that copyrighted work; it's a new derived work.

Reading the law, it's still not obvious to me that that would be legal to sell, and I kind of doubt there is any case law on this point.


Why not? You've never sold one of your used books?


Not one that I had edited to create a meaningfully different work from the original.


I am nog allowed tot say


What an absurd case, so glad it would found in Eyeo's favour.

> More dangerous still, any developer who writes code for an offending browser feature could be liable to pay damages

If you take this one step further, any browser vendor would be liable for changes to their product if that change broke a person's site, i.e. deprecation of any features. The mind boggles at how horrific it could've been for the future of the web.


And worse yet, imagine you're liable for not supporting each and every new web standard that there is 100%, right away. Just to illustrate how absurd such a ruling would have been.


Does this have any equivalent to US laws or was it at all a departure from German law? I don't see what the precedent is, everything thinks the topic they care about is so important when its not.

The claims were 1) that HTML of a page is copyrighted 2) so therefore browser extensions that modify it are a problem

If I read this correctly, the court curbstomped 2) because thats silly while not needing to address 1) because thats true but has nothing to do with what a browser extension does.

Couldn't this had been dismissed since there is nothing new at all? was there really ever a risk of anything different occurring? what a waste of time


I see that as correct decision. Yes, sure the HTML of a page is copyrighted work.

But the 2 following from that is bit weird. I couldn't take magazine cut it up and make something new? Or a book? Or maybe I have ebook reader and I couldn't change the font and size?


Not sure of anything equivalent, but the whole case does not make much sense.

In my opinion its quite simple:

The Landgericht Hamburg is known for its incredible ineptitude and a tendency to decide in favor of the likes of Springer and other internet/tech adverse entities.

I assume, Springer which a massive publisher of Fox News style garbage like Bild (colloquially known as Blöd), tried to capitalize on that ineptitude.

So it is quite remarkable that Springer failed.


It looks like Axel Springer was trying to assert that the user's own software on their own client device was creating derivative works on behalf of companies like eyeo. Just because eyeo wrote the software that I may or may not choose to use on my device does not mean and IMO should not be taken to mean that eyeo is republishing anything for my consumption. I'm just using my copy of the web page that I obtained legally from the web server with software I choose to use which may display things differently from how the publisher of the page intends.




Germany does not have the notion of copyright like in the Anglo-American legal system, so I guess it's basically only applicable in Germany and countries where they do have the same regulations


Germany has copyright laws like virtually all countries do, and it was party to the Berne Convention.

Its copyright laws are in the Gesetz über Urheberrecht und verwandte Schutzrechte. It just doesn't call them that. The main difference I believe is that they're not totally transferable and it doesn't have the work for hire doctrine, but it gives the author of a work the exclusive right to reproduce that work, i.e., the right to copy it and to delegate that right.


Yes but there are still significant differences. E.g. Germany has no legal concept of dedicating work to the "public domain". Everything released as "public domain" today is effectively copyrighted. You can release your work under GPL, MIT, CC0, and so on but not as public domain.


Not only does Germany have copyright, it is the reason why Disney was able to bully around the US into the last major copyright term extension.

On a more meta note, I'm noticing a pattern where people figure that jurisdictional or cultural differences constitute such a dramatic difference that "insert crazy copyright law here" is just assumed to not apply in their local jurisdiction, or that it will never apply to them. It will. There might be cases where you do have cultural differences, but copyright isn't one of them. Copyright enjoys deep international consensus on almost every issue, and the only practical differences between jurisdictions are things like:

- Should copyright terms be long (life+50), extra-long (life+70), or practically forever (up to life+100)?

- Should authors be allowed to unwind licensing agreements and copyright transfers?

- Can an author intentionally destroy their own copyright interest in a work? Or does "public domain" only include works whose copyright has naturally expired?

- Do authors enjoy moral rights to their work? If so, can those rights be waived or not?

- Do online services need to proactively filter content in order to avoid copyright liability, or is merely offering no-questions-asked takedowns to copyright owners enough?

- Do you need to register your copyright in order to sue?

Y'know, things "on the margins" of copyright.

It's important not to understate how ridiculously radical the stereotypical hacker position on copyright is. Even avowed Communists were willing to continue a watered-down copyright regime[0] despite having a legal system that specifically considered profit to be a form of exploitation and regularly charged people with things like "social parasitism". The kinds of people here who would like to see copyright abolished or reformed into oblivion are, in one sense at least, "to the left[1] of Soviet Russia". Everywhere else, people hold copyright as a base assumption. This includes "America", "the Anglosphere", "the West", and any other division you want to talk about to make your point that you don't think the law applies when it does.

[0] Strictly speaking, I've been told by actual Russian emigrants who lived under Soviet rule that copyright wasn't a thing people worried about until the fall of Communism. However, this is also concomitant with copyright interests in capitalist countries being increasingly worried about consumer-level copyright infringement. What I do know is that the laws on the books did exist, but I suspect they were only used against state-owned publishing enterprises, as that would fit in with the general ideas behind Socialist law better.

The Soviets were actually worried about the masses copying music before the RIAA was. However, this had less to do with copyright and more to do with censorship: before the 1970s importing western music was hella illegal. There actually were bootleg music copying rings at that time; they'd copy the music onto makeshift vinyl records made out of old X-ray prints.

[1] Insamuch as "left" without additional qualifiers is even a meaningful term at that point.


Continental copyright is actually a bit stronger than Anglo-American copyright because it draws from the concept of authors' rights, the moral right of an author to control how their work is exhibited (because the work is tied up with the author's reputation). Hence why essential aspects of American copyright law, like public domain and fair use, are leas developed or missing in non-Anglo Western Europe.




It wouldn't be the first time that something indefensibly stupid is afforded legal protection, see DRM.


Had Axel Springer won the case, it sounds like it would have become illegal to scribble marginalia, highlight, or otherwise alter the copyrighted content of books I own.


They were trying to make the argument that they html was copyright and thus modifying and redistributing it (IE removing the ads) without license was infringing. The entirety of the consideration was whether programmatically removing ads in the page before serving it to the user consisted of redistribution or reproduction.

Definitely a stretch attempt at interpretation but not surprising and not at all unreasonable.

Your analogy isn't fully sane - You bought the book you're scribbling in, and have the right to deface that copy as you please, and even resell that copy. You may not reprint it with a word whited out and offer it for reproduction or distribution as your own.

This side of copyright law is very well established and not ambiguous.


Not really. They're claiming that it isn't the _user_ that's scribbling on the HTML page, which is why their HTML (their customers' HTML specifically) is different from books.

Perhaps it would have limited libraries from re-lending books that a patron scribbled on. But not automatically, it would require a second court case.


HTML as served from the server can be owned by the publisher. I'm fine with that. Just don't tell me how I can view it and use information from it once I have my copy you've allowed me to download onto my machine.

What Axel Springer was trying to do is equivalent to telling a magazine subscriber they can't cut a couch out of an interior design magazine and paste it on a poster board with the wallpaper from another magazine to plan their own room. That's not how copyright works. My copy is my copy.


Just so everyone aware there are two Springer media companies. One does scientific publishing and one does not. They are unrelated.


This is an excessively strong claim, one was started by the grandson of the founder of the other.


Its a claim publicly made by the older Springer Verlag. They ran advertisements in the 60s titling "Springer ist nicht Springer".

>Springer isnt Springer. Every chessgame has two knights (Springer) which are easy to mix up. In publishing there are also two Springer, who dont share anything but the word Springer, but are often mixed up as a result.

>... >Between the two publishers no family or economic ties exist.

edit: Obviously in the context of the Springer blockade by the student movement. The advertisement in question is from the Konkret issue number 6 of 1968 page 35 Bad translation obviously.

freemint hier is the same advertisment made in print. It also disavowals any family relations. "Zwischenden beiden Verlagen gibt es keine verwandtschaftliche Verbindungen."


I am not aware of any ownership relations, overlap of board members or them interacting in a comparative manner. I am not aware that any in of the two companies the name giving family plays a significant role in day to day operations.


That argument was so weird. Imagine having a Bitcoin miner embedded into the page. According to this argument I would have been legally required to execute it.


NFTs creeping in


It wasn't obvious from the title but this is about ad blocking being ruled a non-infringement. See also:

which made it near the top of Reddit r/news.


How is this different from VidAngel on premise? Remixing content, html or video seems the same to me.


> How is this different from VidAngel

Because Disney got involved with VidAngel, and Disney always wins.

The problem is that there's basically no way to stream arbitrary video content you own in a way that VidAngel can access it client side for filtering. This is because the content owners make deals such that the content is only able to legally be streamed by certain vendors (Netflix, Amazon, or other) and those vendors can put it in their ToS that you aren't allowed to modify the stream in any way, etc. VidAngel tried to get around it by streaming ripped DVDs and got nailed by Disney. They might have been able to last longer had they not gotten greedy with the dubious "sellback" program that allowed you to remotely buy a DVD and then remotely sell it back after viewing it.

The only way I see viable "Family Home Movie Act" style video filtering is if you build an open source DB of video metadata and use that in conjunction with a VLC plugin or something. Then you are responsible for obtaining your own video content, which you can edit on the fly with the VLC plugin + open source metadata DB.


From what I could find Axel Springer failed on multiple fronts. For one the court found that the final page layout was the result of various highly automated and industrialized processes and failed to meet the standard for a unified creative work. The court also found that the changes to the pages rendering code did not modify its substance, with that the court distinguished it from a precedent about cheat software feeding false data back to a server.