Legal and moral issues
Posted May 4, 2009 21:47 UTC (Mon) by emk
In reply to: Ethical issue
Parent article: Mozilla ponders policy change after Firefox extension battle (ars technica)
If you do decide to use one, and you block the ads, you're breaking the quid-pro-quo with the publisher or web site operator.
This reminds me of a claim by the CEO of AOL-Time-Warner regarding DVRs:
JK: Because of the ad skips.... It's theft. Your contract with the network when you get the show is you're going to watch the spots. Otherwise you couldn't get the show on an ad-supported basis. Any time you skip a commercial or watch the button you're actually stealing the programming.
CW: What if you have to go to the bathroom or get up to get a Coke?
JK: I guess there's a certain amount of tolerance for going to the bathroom.
Legally speaking, I don't know whether there's any validity to this argument, even if you omit the bogus references to "your contract" and "stealing." One relevant precedent is probably the ruling that CleanFilms and CleanFlicks were violating copyright law by editing DVDs for Christian audiences. But even in this case, the studios refrained from bringing a case against ClearPlay, whose software performed the actual edits at playback time on the user's computer, which is most similar to how ad-blocking software works.
The other possible argument here is a moral argument, saying something like, "It's wrong to exercise your fair-use rights if doing so interferes with the business model of the copyright holder." In some cases, I might accept this argument, especially if the copyright holder makes a specific request that I look at their advertising.
But in general, I wouldn't feel guilty about using a newspaper clipping service to clip specific columns from a newspaper, incidentally removing the surrounding ads.
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