Newspapers threaten legal action against adblocking browser Brave

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 8 April 2016
A web browser that replaces publisher client ads with its own has been threatened with legal action.

Leading US newspapers have threatened legal action in a cease and desist letter against a web browser that replaces publishers' ads with its own.

The publishers, which count The New York Times Company, Dow Jones, Washington Post and 14 other companies among its signatories, say the web browser Brave is “blatantly illegal” and profits from the $5 billion newspaper industry.

Earlier this year, former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich launched Brave, which has adblocking software hard-coded into it and replaces all publisher client ads ads with its own. It says its ads load quicker and protects the data of users.

Brave's business model pays out publishers 55% of its revenues, with 15% going to Brave, 15% going to Brave's ad partners and the rest going to the user.

The publishers say Brave's advertising plan amounts to copyright infringement, a violation of the publishers' terms of use, unfair competition, unauthorised access to their sites and a breach of contract.

In a strongly worded letter, the publishers said: “Your plan to use our content to sell your advertising is indistinguishable from a plan to steal our content to publish on your own website. Your public statements demonstrate clearly that you intend to harness and exploit the content of all the publishers on the web to sell your own advertising.

"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.

"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 media companies have declined to participate in Brave and threatened to seek damages of up to $150,000 per article that the web browser monetises.

The signatories are all members of the Newspaper Association of America and represent more than 1200 newspapers in the US.

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