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Adblockers are not pirates

Mathew Ingram tweeted:

No, it is not. (Of course, talking about the illegal sharing of music as “piracy” is ridiculous, as would be obvious to anyone who’s ever met an actual, non-arrrrr pirate. Which I have not.)

Is turning a page in a magazine without reading the ad piracy? Is going to pee during a commercial piracy? Is keeping your eyes on the road instead of looking at the billboards piracy? Is it piracy when a TV show blurs the name of a product on the tee shirt of a passerby?


There’s only one difference between those acts of non-piracy and what happens when you run an ad blocker such as AdBlock Plus in your browser. When you turn the page on a magazine ad or fix yourself a big bowl of Soylent during a TV commercial, the magazine publishers and the TV station don’t know about it. That’s the only relevant difference. Whether the provider of the ad knows about it or not is not relevant to whether it’s piracy.

It is, of course, relevant to whether the Web page gets paid for the ad. So the suggestion that we turn our ad blockers off to support the content that we appreciate — which on particular pages I in fact do — amounts to urging readers to conspire with websites to pretend that we’re reading the ads, wink wink, so that the website can get its cut…for delivering no value to the advertisers.

A business model based on a conspiracy to maintain a delusion is itself delusional.

In fact, as Doc Searls points out, it’s a delusion based on a falsehood: the belief that we are always shopping. We’re not, even though advertisers would like us to be always-on “consumers.”

And, by the way, here’s a related delusion: The idea that popup ads that obscure the content we’ve come to see are worth the ill-will they generate. That delusion depends upon ignoring the scientifically calculated FYR: the ratio of the Fuck You’s muttered by the recipients of these attentional muggings versus their intentional click-throughs.

I’d tell you what my personal FYR is, but you can’t divide by zero.

3 Responses to “Adblockers are not pirates”

  1. But would you be recording that ad into your subconscious? Like if you see the same ad on the sides of websites of a particular brand, would that count as brand advertising and then when you eventually go buy that product you think of that company?

  2. Good point, Invincible — although one could also argue that unconsciously influencing users is immoral. Back in the 1960s that’s why there was an uproar about so-called subliminal advertising. If so, then we have one more reason to run adblockers.

  3. Great observation, David. The “industry” has no choice but to ignore the impact of their ways on people, because their real clients are the ones who pay them, a.k.a. the people formerly known as the advertisers. It will collapse inward, seemingly overnight.

    What I find so extraordinary, however, is how the perpetrators of this want the government to somehow protect them.

    Here’s my view of it: Online Video Discontent: A Rant

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