Brave Software, the startup founded by Mozilla cofounder Brendan Eich that has developed an ad-blocking Internet browser, today responded to an attack by newspaper publishers on grounds that its technology unlawfully replaces publishers’ revenue-generating ads with ads that make money for Brave.
Brave first launched its browser on Mac and Windows in January, and iOS and Android versions have since appeared on the App Store and the Google Play Store, respectively. The startup has begun to unveil information about how users and publishers can get paid when Brave is serving its own “private” and “anonymous” ads through its own ad network. Now juggernauts in the media industry — Newspaper Association of America members Advance Local, Digital First Media, Dow Jones, Gannett, Lee Enterprises, the New York Times Co., Tribune Publishing, and McClatchy — are fighting back.
“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 publishers wrote in the letter. They specifically said they don’t want to participate in the system Brave has laid out for providing compensation to certain publishers.
Here’s Brave’s full response to the letter:
The NAA sent a letter to Brave Software that is filled with false assertions. The NAA has fundamentally misunderstood Brave. Brave is the solution, not the enemy.
The NAA’s letter to Brave Software asserts that any browser that blocks and replaces ads on the browser user’s device performs “unauthorized republication” of Web content. This is false on its face, since browsers do not “republish”, serve, syndicate, or distribute content across the Internet or to any computer other than the one on which they run.
Browsers are the end-point for secure connections, the user agent that actually mediates and combines all the pieces of content, including third-party ads and first-party publisher news stories. Browsers can block, rearrange, mash-up and otherwise make use of any content from any source. 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 NAA letter also falsely asserts that Brave will share an “unspecified percentage of revenue”, when our revenue share pie chart has been public and fixed from our first preview release in January. We give the lion’s share (pun intended), up to 70% of ad revenue, to websites, keeping only 15% for ourselves and paying 15% to our users.
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. We categorically reject the claim that browsers perform “republication”, and we repeat that Brave has a sound and systematic plan to financially reward publishers. We aim to outperform the invasive third-party ads that we block, with our better, fewer, and privacy-preserving ads.
Finally, we note that malvertisement has gotten onto the websites of the New York Times and the BBC recently through the ill-designed, unregulated, and poorly-delegated third-party advertising technology ecosystem. Truly, this tracker-based ad-tech ecosystem is what is damaging the brand value of content publishers and driving users to adopt ad-blocking software. Brave blocks and replaces only third-party ads and trackers. Our system thus actually repairs the damage that publishers have carelessly allowed their ad partners (and partners’ partners, to the seventh degree of separation) do to their trademarked brands and names.
Make no mistake: this NAA letter is the first shot in a war on all ad-blockers, not just on Brave. Though the NAA never reached out to us, we would be happy to sit down with them for an opportunity to discuss how the Brave solution can be a win win. 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.
Apple’s iOS mobile operating system now supports ad blockers. Microsoft last week announced that its Edge browser would support ad-blocking through third-party extensions like Adblock Plus. Meanwhile, some publishers have begun implementing anti-ad-blocking software on their own websites.