Liberation, Not Extortion: The Fate of Internet Ad-Blocking in German and American Law

80 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2017  

Russell Miller

Washington and Lee University - School of Law

Date Written: August 15, 2017


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.

Keywords: Ad-Blocking Services; Ad-Blocking Technology; Constitutional Law and Ad-Blocking; Copyright; German Ad-Blocking Litigation; Internet Advertising; Internet Publishing; Internet Revenue Model; Judgments and Ad-Blocking; Social Benefits of Advertising; Targeted Internet Advertising; Unfair Competition

JEL Classification: K2, K23, K33, O3, O33

Suggested Citation

Miller, Russell, Liberation, Not Extortion: The Fate of Internet Ad-Blocking in German and American Law (August 15, 2017). Washington & Lee Legal Studies Paper No. 2017-15. Available at SSRN: or

Russell Miller (Contact Author)

Washington and Lee University - School of Law ( email )

Lexington, VA 24450
United States

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