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U.S. newspapers threaten to sue Brave browser maker over ad-blocking scheme

Gregg Keizer | April 11, 2016
Brave Software asserts it can 'make use of any content from any source,' and replace news sites' ads with its own if it wants.

In a long statement sent to Computerworld, the browser maker asserted, "Brave is the solution [to ad-blocking], not the enemy."

Brave also argued that the newspapers "fundamentally misunderstood Brave," and claimed that as a browser it was immune from legal punishment because it did not "republish" content, and could rearrange components on a web page as it saw fit. "Browsers can block, rearrange, mash-up and otherwise make use of any content from any source," Brave contended, an aggressive stance that the publishers obviously disagreed with.

Brave also cited other defenses, including everyone-else-does-it and we-didn't-create-ad-blocking."

"If it were the case that Brave's browsers perform 'republication,' then so too does Safari's Reader mode, and the same goes for any ad-blocker-equipped browser, or the Links text-only browser, or screen readers for the visually impaired," the company said. "We sympathize with publishers concerned about the damage that pure ad blockers do to their ability to pay their bills via advertising revenue. However, this problem long pre-dates Brave."

With words like those, a legal test in the U.S. could follow, something Brave implicitly acknowledged.

"Make no mistake: this NAA letter is the first shot in a war on all ad-blockers, not just on Brave," Brave's letter stated. "We will fight alongside all citizens of the Internet who deserve and demand a better deal than they are getting from today's increasingly abusive approach to web advertising."

Today, the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), a trade group that represents about 2,000 papers -- and whose board of directors includes representative of many of the 17 publishers which issued the letter to Brave -- replied to the software firm's arguments.

"We continue to support our members' interest in their cease-and-desist letter notifying Brave of its planned unlawful activities," said NAA CEO David Chavern. "While we appreciate Brave's interest in defending its business model, and would not have expected otherwise, we continue to view their proposition as crossing legal boundaries."


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