German court hands Springer partial victory in ad-blocking case

COLOGNE, Germany (Reuters) - A German court on Friday handed publisher Axel Springer a partial victory on Friday in its fight against so-called ad-blockers, which users can install on computers or mobile devices to prevent advertising from being shown.

The logo of the German publisher Axel Springer is seen outside its headquarters in Berlin in this August 7, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

The court said ad-blocking provider Eyeo should not charge Axel Springer for putting it on its “white list” of publishers and advertisers it exempts from blanket blocking by consumers.

Springer, which depends on advertising to pay for its publications, is one of the most vocal opponents of ad-blocking software. Last year, the German publisher started banning readers who use ad-blockers from its Bild tabloid website.

Eyeo provides software to block all ads but then offers publishers the chance to join a “white list” to enable ads to be shown on their sites.

In most cases, being added to the white list is free subject to a check that the advertising is acceptable, but Eyeo takes a share of the extra revenues the biggest advertisers make.

The regional court in Cologne on Friday found Springer not to be one of those larger companies who must pay.

But said it did not have objections to ad-blockers as such, confirming earlier rulings.

Eyeo said it would appeal against the ruling, which it said depended on “an obscure, newly passed statute in German unfair competition law”.

Springer hailed the ruling as a victory over what it called an “unacceptably aggressive business practice”. It had appealed against an earlier ruling in favor of Eyeo.

Cologne-based Eyeo’s Adblock Plus serves the fast-growing market for software to block Internet advertising that many users find intrusive or interferes with their experience of websites.

As of March, 419 million people, or 22 percent of the world’s 1.9 billion smartphone users, were blocking ads on the mobile web, according to Dublin-based analytics and advisory firm PageFair, which develops “ad blocker-friendly” advertising.

Reporting by Nikola Rotscheroth and Harro ten Wolde; Editing by Georgina Prodhan