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Publishers call Brave's ad-blocking browser "blatantly illegal" in cease and desist letter

By midian182 · 29 replies
Apr 8, 2016
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  1. Some of the biggest newspapers in the US – including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal - have attacked the new ad-blocking plans by Brave that will see the browser replace the publishers' ads with its own.

    While there are some new browsers, such as Opera, that block ads altogether, Brave takes a different approach. It replaces advertisements, some of which Brave claims may contain malicious content, with ones from its own network that allegedly load quicker and “protect data sovereignty [and] anonymity.”

    If a user elects to see these ads, they will be paid around 15 percent of the gross profits in Bitcoin, and are given the option to donate this to the publishers. Another 15 percent goes to Brave, and 15 percent goes to the ad partners. The publishers, meanwhile, receive around 55 percent of the revenues.

    The Newspaper Association of America (NAA), a non-profit trade group representing 2,000 newspapers in the US and Canada, isn’t happy with the plan.

    “[Brave’s] argument is, I will take $10 out of your wallet and give you $5 and aren’t you happy about that?” said David Chavern, president of the NAA

    In what they are calling a ‘cease and desist letter,’ seventeen members of the NAA wrote: “Your apparent plan to permit your customers to make Bitcoin ‘donations’ to us, and for you to donate to us some unspecified percentage of revenue you receive from the sale of your ads on our sites, cannot begin to compensate us for the loss of our ability to fund our work by displaying our own advertising.”

    The companies say the business model is “blatantly illegal.” Brave, which was founded by Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich, says the NAA members have “fundamentally misunderstood” the company’s intentions.

    The startup says it is offering a solution that benefits everyone, and points out that - with an increasing number of people turning to ad blockers - this method will at least bring some revenue to the publishers, which is better than nothing at all.

    You can read Brave’s extensive response to the NAA letter here.

    Permalink to story.

  2. insect

    insect TS Evangelist Posts: 349   +132

    They have a point - I've blocked adds nearly everywhere - Content alone is enough for me to view ads most of the time because so many people offer it elsewhere or are just linking to other places anyway/providing basic summaries (this site/article for instance). But, if I know I'm getting a cut of some ads then I would probably let them through. A 'tax' for the inconvenience of your ads and for eating my bandwidth, if you will.
    Reehahs, mbrowne5061, veLa and 4 others like this.
  3. Short-sighted on the part of the news groups. Forcing in-house ads down people's throats after they've been incentivized to unblock your site from their ad blacklist plays way too hard into the 'greedy corporate America' narrative.

    Many will put their shields down if they are given incentive. Take that away, and you go from reduced revenue to zero revenue, because the content is of little value.

    But then...they aren't the most intelligent bunch. Profitability in this sector is struggling for very well-known reasons and instead of adapting they double-down on a failing model. Economic darwinism.
  4. daThomas

    daThomas TS Rookie

    The content providers will win based on one thing: "(the Brave browser will) replace the publishers' ads with its own". THAT is blatantly illegal, has been shown to be so by the courts in the past, and if that is the basis of the Brave company's business model, quite stupid.
    FF222 and noc81 like this.
  5. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 3,160   +1,413

    How appropriate considering taxes are due next week.... this is exactly the governments model with tax refunds. Everyone is so thrilled to get a 'refund' on their own money.
    wastedkill and psycros like this.
  6. tonylukac

    tonylukac TS Evangelist Posts: 1,376   +72

    I think brave has a great idea. Get paid to surf the web? Read carefully; it's not taking money from the user, just the website. I'd unblock my ads for this since they guarantee no viruses, and the amount I surf I'd be a millionaire. This is how they should do gambling; ads on the slots and everybody wins. New york is always such sh*t. May they all get into the game, including websites. America the home of the brave.
    Reehahs and wastedkill like this.
  7. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 3,995   +3,481

    I like this solution but I don't think this is the best solution. I haven't read anything about how they will curate these ads so one could guess there is still a chance for malicious advertisements. One would hope that they restrict ads on what they can and cannot do as well.
  8. Satish Mallya

    Satish Mallya TechSpot Staff Posts: 189   +174

    Its not just malicious advertising I have a problem with; it's poor quality advertising (taboola is a prime example).
    Spam-like ads are a huge red flag, and I will not only block the ad network, but abandon the site altogether.

    If they will guarantee that ads are not malicious, invasive, or spammy, I'm all ears.
  9. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,952   +3,995

    Strictly addressing myself to the of surfing porn, Brave's plan could turn out to be an unmitigated disaster for the user. "Here, we'll take away all those dirty porn ads and pay you to watch even smuttier ones in return...ee-oow :eek: Help me Obi-Wan Ke-NoScript!

    On a more serious note, I don't know why, but this seems like the same dynamic or business model, "Aereo" was using rebroadcasting TV. We all know where that went.:D
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2016
    wastedkill likes this.
  10. noc81

    noc81 TS Enthusiast Posts: 79   +29

    How is this a serious business model..? It's like saying, sure it's bad downloading pirated content, but it's slightly less bad if you pay someone for it..

    The adblocking debate is happening just as it should. Publishers have the right to include ads, I as the end-user have the right to block loading the ads, and then the publisher has the right to mitigate this by restricting their content. Any third party trying to edge into this dynamic just to make a buck, will end up just making themselves an obvious target of lawsuits -- after-all, they maintain no right to alter copyrighted content and make a profit.

    Furthermore, by what means are they promising to reimburse website operators..? They obviously aren't going to receive this revenue stream through their existing ad partners, and do we really expect 'Brave' to hunt them down to pay them..? (another spotify-like royalties situation..?)

    When it comes down to it, those of us blocking ads have to admit that what we are doing basically comes down to stealing copyrighted content. We are taking a product, while cutting off the publishers' source of revenue -- that's no different in the end than illegally download a movie. The argument over personal security is entirely baseless, as if you use a modern operating system with the basic security measures left in place, advertising can't lead to malware unless you explicitly allow it to install (moreover, the only sites that use such horrible malware-laden ads tend to be those of the 'illegal' nature anyway).

    Thus.. Anybody making money from blocking ads will be shut down just as quickly as anybody trying to make money from illegal downloads. In the end, they are the same exact crime..
  11. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 2,714   +2,511

    Says right in the article the publishers get the biggest cut of the revenue. Guess you missed that.
  12. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,952   +3,995

    As someone who grew up with broadcast TV, I can't wrap my head around the idea that someone can insist you watch their ads. Everybody thinks they're an internet tycoon. Half the content out seems like it's copied and pasted from someplace else.

    I think some of these site like the New York Times, are already subscription. So now do you have to pay for content and be forced to watch the ads too? Which is it, ad supported or subscription?

    I do think interfering with someones ads and replacing them with yours, is a first amendment violation, (freedom of the press). But blocking ads on your own, is similar to getting up to take a pee while the commercial is on, and is therefore an, "inalienable right".
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  13. TheBigFatClown

    TheBigFatClown TS Evangelist Posts: 744   +274

    Do you honestly believe what you are saying? This article caught my attention at just the right time as just today I got so frustrated from being assaulted with websites advertisements I installed an ad blocker for my Chrome browser. The sidebar was so obnoxious and annoying that I couldn't even focus on the main content of the website.

    Advertisers will not win over consumers in this way. The more desperate their attempts become to pummel the masses with advertisements, the more they will fight back. The smartest advertisers/advertisements are the ones that are so subtle that you don't really care that they are present.

    YouTube let's you skip most of their ads after 3 seconds. For the ones I can't skip I am simply muting the volume and scrolling the page out of view until they are over. I will never admit or equate my actions to stealing copyright content.
    Do you hold the same views towards DVR devices? Google, who made most of their money from advertising will offer you a DVR for their Google Fiber service. So they're selling advertising slots to one group and their selling the DVR to another group. I think you might want to attack those types of actions more than an average consumer who simply gets tired of being constantly blasted with advertisements they have no concerns about.

    I have no problem agreeing with your second statement. The first one just doesn't sit quite right with me. In the context of a "suppressive government" I would agree. But were talking about free market advertising here. I think your making a blanket statement in a situation where the details of each scenario would need to be fully understood and known to come down on one side or the other. So, I can't agree with the blanket statement. I don't interpret "your freedom of press" as me having "any obligation whatsoever" to support that freedom any longer than it could be sustained on it's own. In other words, if you wanna send smoke signals across my land and expect me to forward those smoke signals to the neighbor on the other side simply because I'm in the middle, you can forget that.

    And to wrap up my long winded rant I'll close with this. My message is the same to the software developers whining about piracy. Stop whining about what you cannot control and adapt. The 24/7 high-speed global internet is a game changer. Crying about it, while perfectly valid, is not really a solution to your problem.

    You cannot control what I do in my home on my computer. Stop trying. I am not a criminal for ignoring unsolicited advertisements.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2016
    mbrowne5061 likes this.
  14. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,952   +3,995

    Simply because you're in a different communications medium doesn't mean established laws or protocols don't attach, or couldn't be adapted to attach. For example, you couldn't set up a transmitter and block a local station's ads. Done in the air, you would be signal jamming, for which legals precedents are already well established.

    I can't help but view this case as the "Aereo" of the internet.. Eventually Aereo's "rebroadcasting" was proved, or decided, depending on how you look at it as, "copyright violation". And they weren't even modifying the content.

    With respect to your "smoke signal" analogy, I think the legal outcome there might hinge on whether or not you moved there to prevent those smoke signals from crossing, or changed the context of those smoke signals.

    That's a vague comparison to make though, in addition to the fact the FAA controls, (or doesn't) the airspace over you home, you don't.

    So, it's a "we'll see".
  15. TheBigFatClown

    TheBigFatClown TS Evangelist Posts: 744   +274

    Agreed, it is a vague comparison. My little brain struggles to come up with more relevant examples in the heat of battle. LoL.
    You seem to be referring to things like imminent domain where governments are involved. And of course, what issue of our lives isn't government involved in these days. I still say all details must be known in each case. If I ran a proxy server on a local intranet with the expressed sole purpose of weeding advertisements out, for my friends family or even a small business would that be illegal? Is that considered an infringement on "freedom of press"??? In my own home??? Choosing to allow or deny what content I deem acceptable in my own home?
    What if an ISP wants to offer an internet service where they are your public proxy? Why should that be illegal if the purpose is known and the customer willingly chooses that ISP for that purpose? I don't see how DVRs are considered ethical and legal which are primarily used to "ignore" advertisements over using a 3rd party service/software browser that does essentially the same things??
    And now as I think about this, I have even more faith in my comments. Your rights of freedom of press should end at my front-door. Who I allow in my personal space and who I restrict is my business. And if I wanna put a bodyguard outside my front door for the same purposes, that should be legal also.
  16. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,952   +3,995

    You're starting to preach to the choir.

    Home video taping was legislated as being legal decades ago. A DVR is simply another format of the same protocol. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Corp._of_America_v._Universal_City_Studios,_Inc.

    Royalty issues of digital music taping were settled with this legislation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_Home_Recording_Act

    So, I don't understand why you're going out of your way to explain that, "a man's home is his castle", to me.

    Whatever this browser intercepts in the way of content, happens long before it hits your door.

    So, you want an ad free home entertainment server? Who the hell is trying to take that off you? Certainly not me.

    I kind of do agree with you that every mutt with an ad supported website is trying to reopen long settled cases. If some in the industry they had their way, mute buttons would be illegal.

    Which is why I always point out, "if DVDs are outlawed, only outlaws will have DVDs".

    In the meantime, all I hear from the opposing team, "I stream because it's so convenient". And I sit back shaking my head thinking, these fish don't know they're swimming into a net".

    But that's today's generation, they're so very smart, they're stupid.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2016
    Reehahs likes this.
  17. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,389   +5,016

    I'm not sure I catch your meaning. The browser processes what is displayed on your machine, not some server halfway around the world. So the intercept is in your door.
  18. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,952   +3,995

    Unless it's parking their entire collection of ads on your HDD, it is coming from outside. No?

    I'm picturing (You or Me)..............( front door ).............( Brave server generates alternative ads)..................... (source website).

    If that's not true, please feel free to correct me :confused:. Simply because you have to install software for a given internet app, doesn't mean its content is contained within.

    The whole "Brave" browser paradigm, seems like a take off on what Google is offering. Basically Google's scam is, "if you don't like the ads we're giving you, tell us what you do "want", and we'll give you those instead.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2016
  19. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,389   +5,016

    With Adblocking, what is being blocked is the code that calls the ads. The code that calls the ads is never rendered. With this browser I can only imagine the code is being replaced with code that calls for ads from a different location. Either way the processing is done on the consumers machine. It is the only way the consumer can have any control of what is being displayed.
  20. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,952   +3,995

    Exactly, not in your home. The ads are rendered from a remote server. You can't say, "Netflix happens inside your home", simply by virtue of the fact you have their software installed. If it did, you'd have your basement refinished as a high density server room.

    I hope that analog is suitable.
    Reehahs likes this.
  21. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,389   +5,016

    You obviously misunderstood. Your browser will download everything needed to be displayed. Then your machine will process what is displayed. It is your machine that does the intercepting and changing, if not completely blocking. Your machine inside your home processing, not some server on the web.
  22. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,952   +3,995

    OK,. well if that's the case, my "Aereo" analog could come into play. All the machinations about, "but we use separate antennas for every channel. I think if Aereo went to the Supreme Court saying, "we pay those users to watch our ads, the outcome of the case would have been identical.

    I'm not at all interested in this new browser anyway. As long as Firefox continues to protect me and offers extensions to help control my content, I'll stay with that proven platform.

    Like I said though, this Brave browser is simply another take on a current Google scam. "Tell us which ads you do want, and we'll give your more of those, and less of the ones you don't want". I think the net result is you get the same amount of ads either way.... :D

    And let me tell you, I do very much appreciate your facility at handling the semantics of this issue....*nerd*
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  23. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,389   +3,779

    I think the pop up ads should be just as fair game as the guy that calls at dinner time trying to sell you something; especially when, in original concept, the internet was supposed to be for non-business only. I think the NEW model should be that the revenue's generated should be split between the provider and the VIEWER. After all, I'm expending time, energy and money to see them on a system I have paid for. I should get a cut of the money or be allowed to freely block those that are unwilling to pay. If we are subject to advertisers, then they should pay for that exposure, just like they used to do in the days of broadcast TV. In fact, there is no reason that the cable companies should not be forced to survive on their ad revenue or give us a kick back for having to tolerate ads interrupting our television time.

    Sounds like we need to start a new petition .....
  24. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,389   +5,016

    That has been my thoughts all along. If the business doesn't have the capability to stand without Internet, they really can't complain too much about Ad revenue. Ad revenue should be a bonus not a main income.
  25. OgnDulk

    OgnDulk TS Enthusiast Posts: 26   +6

    "installation failed" W7

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