Newspaper giants attack “illegal” ad blocking Brave Browser

11/04/2016

A new web browser that blocks ads and serves its own, giving the viewer a cut of the ad revenue, has been branded “blatantly illegal” by US publishers.

More than a dozen major US newspaper publishers have sent a cease-and-desist letter to the creator of the Brave Browser that features built-in ad-blocking software.

Brave doesn't simply remove ads; it actually replaces them with ads from its own network. When users do elect to see the ads, they can get paid, in bitcoins, for 15% of the total ad revenue.

The publishers themselves, whose content houses the new ads, will get 55%, while another 15% goes to Brave and its advertising partners.

The cease-and-desist letter said the plan by Brave Software Inc. to speed page loading times by stripping away ads the papers had sold and replacing them with ones sold by Brave was “indistinguishable from a plan to steal our content to publish on your own website.”

The letter was addressed to Brave founder Brendan Eich, the former chief technology officer and briefly chief executive of Mozilla, who launched the new browser earlier this year.

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It was signed by legal representatives for 17 newspaper groups, which collectively publish about 1,200 daily newspapers, including Gannett, the New York Times and Dow Jones, owner of The Wall Street Journal.

“We stand ready to enforce all legal rights to protect our trademarks and copyrighted content and to prevent you from deceiving consumers and unlawfully appropriating our work in the service of your business,” the publishers wrote in the letter.

In response, Brave claims that the NAA has misunderstood its system and that their service “is the solution, not the enemy.”

Brave promises its browser users a faster Web surfing experience by blocking tracking devices and intrusive ads.

Users can choose whether to see ads or pay sites directly through a micro-payment system to view content, which Brave said gives “users and publishers a better deal.”

Users can also select the ad-replacement mode where they are shown fewer ads, which are sold by Brave and deemed by the company to be safer and faster. Brave said publishers would receive 70% of the ad revenue through the arrangement, which is “far greater than the average percentage in the current programmatic display ad ecosystem.”

“We sympathise with publishers concerned about the damage that pure ad blockers do to their ability to pay their bills via advertising revenue,” Brave said in the statement. “Brave has a sound and systematic plan to financially reward publishers. We aim to outperform the invasive third-party ads that we block, with our better, fewer, and privacy-preserving ads.”

Brave said isn’t committing illegal copyright infringement because its browser doesn’t technically “republish” content as the group of publishers alleges, so therefore can’t be accused of the unauthorized republication of web content.

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