Adblockers don’t break the law. Except when they do.


Is it illegal to block ads?


According to?multiple court cases, the choice to filter your own http requests?is legal and ultimately up to you.?It’s your computer (or your mobile device). You have the right to decide which?content and scripts enter?your system.

The best way to understand this right is that adblockers are basically?”selective downloaders“. They decide which content to download and view, and which content to ‘not download’ and ignore. That simple choice has been protected multiple times in multiple court?decisions.

But?while that means ‘not downloading?ads’ is inherently legal. It may not?mean all adblockers are operating legally.

The problem is that “selective downloading” isn’t?all adblockers are doing. The rabbit hole goes far deeper than just ‘not downloading advertising‘…


Adblockers and Anti-Circumvention laws

Adblockers aren’t just blocking ads.

Adblockers also employ sophisticated circumvention technologies that evade the defensive measures?employed by?publishers. This crucial feature?marks?an important legal line in the sand.

“Anti-adblock” or “access control” technologies (like BlockAdblock) restrict access to the copyrighted content of websites?so that readers can access content only in a manner which the publisher approves of.

prevent access

Specifically,?access control technologies like BlockAdblock restrict browsers equipped with?adblock plugins from accessing a website’s?content. Users who attempt to selectively download only the copyrighted content, without the accompanying advertising may be?barred from access.

And here’s the rub:

While blocking ads?has?been deemed legal?in court, circumvention of access controls is expressly against the law?in Europe, the United States and in all signatory-nations of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Copyright Treaty.

In other words: You’re free to block ads but as soon as an access-control technology enters the picture, you may?not be within your rights to attempt to circumvent it by technological measures.

And that’s exactly what so many adblockers attempt to do — with varying levels of success, depending on the adblocker?and the anti-adblock?technology being deployed in any given case.


adblock circumvention



What laws are being broken?

Anti-circumvention laws in the US, EU and countries who have signed the WIPO treaty are quite similar.


European national laws must reference?Article 6 of the EU Directive 2001/29/EC

  1. Member States shall provide adequate legal protection against the circumvention of any effective technological measures, which the person concerned carries out in the knowledge, or with reasonable grounds to know, that he or she is pursuing that objective.
  2. Member States shall provide adequate legal protection against the manufacture, import, distribution, sale, rental, advertisement for sale or rental, or possession for commercial purposes of devices, products or components or the provision of services which:
    • (a) are promoted, advertised or marketed for the purpose of circumvention of, or
    • (b) have only a limited commercially significant purpose or use other than to circumvent, or
    • (c) are primarily designed, produced, adapted or performed for the purpose of enabling or facilitating the circumvention of, any effective technological measures.
  3. For the purposes of this Directive, the expression ‘technological measures’ means any technology, device or component that, in the normal course of its operation, is designed to prevent or restrict acts, in respect of works or other subjectmatter, which are not authorised by the rightsholder…

In other words, it’s not okay?to circumvent technological measures which restrict access to a work. ?It’s also?not okay?to manufacture or distribute products whose purpose is to circumvent access controls. And it’s up?to the publisher / rights-holder to decide what the terms of said access are.?

United States

Likewise, across the pond in the USA, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) includes several sections relevant to the circumvention of website access controls:

Section 103 of the DMCA includes this very clear language:

No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.

And “technological measure” is defined as follows:

(3)(B) a technological measure “effectively controls access to a work” if the measure, in the ordinary course of its operation, requires the application of information, or a process or a treatment, with the authority of the copyright owner, to gain access to the work.

Clearly, any anti-adblock defense used to protect website content falls under the description of a “technological measure” requiring a process or treatment to gain access to the work. ?(That “process or treatment” being the detection of no adblocker, in this particular case).

For more information on how adblockers violate the DMCA see the previous post: Is Adblock Plus violating the DMCA


It’s not adblocking that’s illegal. It’s the circumvention of ‘technological measures’ that is.

Certainly, this doesn’t mean that blocking ads is illegal. But it does strongly suggest that the additional layer of technology employed by current-generation adblockers to circumvent the technological defenses of adblock-detection scripts is illegal.

Anti-circumvention law was enacted for a purpose.

That purpose is to protect “remuneration schemes” and?to”foster substantial investment in creativity and innovation”, to use the opening language of the EC Directive.

A harmonised legal framework on copyright and related rights?…?will foster substantial investment in creativity and innovation, including network infrastructure, and lead in turn to growth and increased competitiveness of European industry, both in the area of content provision and information technology and more generally across a wide range of industrial and cultural sectors. This will safeguard employment and encourage new job creation.

Somewhere along the line that primary purpose appears to have been replaced with something less sustainable, and a whole lot less legal.



, ,

  • Raoulista

    But isn’t Blockadblock circumventing my Adblock?

    • Not all circumvention is illegal. Only those specific kinds of circumvention described in applicable law are illegal. In the United States, DMCA (17 USC 1201) bans only circumvention of access control around a copyrighted work, and CFAA (18 USC 1030) bans knowingly accessing information stored on a computer on the other side of an interstate network in violation of agreed-upon terms of use. BlockAdblock just withholds authorization if it 1. runs and 2. detects that ads fail to load. Which of these does it violate, and in what manner?

      • BlockAdblock

        > ,DMCA (17 USC 1201) bans only circumvention of access control around a copyrighted work”

        Websites contain copyrighted work.

        • Let me try to make it plainer: You claim that anti-anti-adblock violates the DMCA because anti-adblock controls access to a copyrighted website. Your claim looks interesting enough to try in court. But Raoulista claims that anti-adblock itself circumvents the user’s adblock. I dispute Raoulista’s claim that anti-adblock violates the DMCA because there is no copyrighted work to which adblock controls access.

          • Chilly8

            Like I said, merely blocking the URL of the anti-adblock script, on your router, does not violate the law, since you are not hacking into their machines.

            In order to be in violation of the DMCA of CFAA, you would have to hack into the website. Blocking a URL is not hacking, either under the DMCA or CFAA

        • ThunderHaven

          You do know by creating this crap certain groups will take notice and destroy your priveleges only because you keep blocking those users only because you act like a bunch of childeren. We bend the law, thus we do not break it. You guys break the law with false accusations to create a thing that works best for you, but by blocking people you create a gap that results into site owners loser people to watch the streams, resulting into a massive debt that eventually ends the site into having to close.

          So here is my advice, f* off with that policy.

  • User1772

    This post glossed up over many legal technicalities. There are more requirements for something to be an “effective access control” and etc. Blockadblock script does NOT detect adblockers, it only detects some elements were hidden or some requests were blocked. Also, that access control prevention by technological measure is one of subtle parts of copyright laws, this can be different from countries to countries. I regard this post as an unsubstantiated claim just like how Hans’ claim that adblock detection is illegal was.

  • Anonymouse User

    This article is glossing over many legal technicalities about “anti-circumvention”. There are more legal requirements for something to qualify as an effective technological measure, and this is one of subtle parts of a copyright law; legal regulations on access control by technological measures differs from countries to countries.

    Note that Blockadblock does NOT detect adblockers – it only detects whether some elements were hidden or some requests to ad servers returns errors, which can be caused by other software or even at server-side; Also it does not encrypt the main copyrighted content; there are many ways to view an webpage ad-free such as a ‘reader view’ feature provided by browsers. Thus, there are many legal difficulties for such anti adblock scripts to qualify as ‘technological measures’.

    I regard this post as an unsubstantiated claim, just like how Hans’ claim that detecting adblockers is illegal in EU was.

    +) This comment was deleted once by someone… well, it’s obvious who did it 🙂

    • BlockAdblock

      Thanks for your comment. I think if you read the other posts on this site you’ll find that I am the very first one to say that BlockAdblock does not directly detect adblockers. That’s been my argument from day one in regards to the European ePrivacy Directive.

      For example, I wrote:
      > “Anti-adblock scripts merely guess at the existence of an adblock plugin based on imputed information about how a webpage has been rendered within the browser. In other words, adblock detection scripts don?t ?report?. They ?infer?.

      Secondly, please identify the technicalities that are being “glossed” over. I note that your argument consists of a claim that there are some important points being left out, **and then you proceed to leave them out yourself**.

      This is a conversation. Let’s have one. The EU directive seems to me to apply. If it doesn’t I’d love to hear why you think it doesn’t. I’m familiar with copyright law. But not this mysterious point you seem to be referencing about a legal definition of an “effective technological measure” which contradicts my points above. Please direct me to that. Thanks.

      You note that BlockAdblock “does not encrypt the main copyrighted content”. Yes, and? Full encryption of the copyrighted content is not among the qualifications or requirements for an anti-access control. I’m not sure what (if any) legal concept you are referencing. Can you cite this?

      You’re claiming both an incorrect portrayal of the law, and a degree of complexity which refutes what I’ve said above. I’m all ears. Specifics please.

      • Anonymouse User, again

        So this is your reply after deleting my comment once. That’s a huge improvement! Although you’re hastily concluding that my claim is incorrect, if not falsely. This is not a good attitude in listening to other’s opinion 🙂

        The main legal point that I see lacks in this post is whether anti-adblock solutions qualifies as ‘technological measures”. You just say,

        > Clearly, any anti-adblock defense used to protect website content falls under the description of a ?technological measure? requiring a process or treatment to gain access to the work. (That ?process or treatment? being the detection of no adblocker, in this particular case).

        This is where you are clearly glossing over legal complications. In this very sentence, you said “process of treatment = detection of no adblocker”, which contradicts what you said above, “BlockAdblock does not directly detect adblockers”.

        Also, most copyright laws protect only those “effective” technological measures.
        In case of US, see
        > No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.

        For example, if you put a simple scriptlet to disable context menus in your website, it cannot qualify as an effective technological measure to prevent making an unauthorized copy of copyrighted contents. Examples of ‘effective’ technological measures would be DRM which fully encrypts the content. I don’t see any arguments about this point. If you have any reason to believe that anti-adblock scripts such as blockadblock falls into the category of effective technological measures, please supply it. I am interested in this matter.

        Lastly, all of your argument won’t apply in a country where I live, because it does not legally protect technological measures for access control. We does protect technological measures to prevent making of unauthorized copy, but we regards access control as a pursuit of individual benefit which doe not need to be protected by law. What anti-adblock scripts are trying is access control, so it is not protected by our copyright law. This is what I meant when I said it may differ from countries to countries. What will you do in this case?

        • BlockAdblock

          You are taking the term “detection” solely to mean “direct detection” which has a literal technological implication under the ePD. “Detection” is also the term used to describe the *effective* result — which is to detect the *presence* of an adblocker via indirect means. (Notably, detecting changes to the DOM). Context is important.

          Read the other posts on this blog and you will find this discussed, and this distinction made many times.

          Are you in the EU? It’s hard to understand how your point about “your country” applies to this article without knowing what country you’re in. If you’re not: In what way does your specific (non-US / non-EU) national case represent a rebuttal to the points above which deal with laws in the US & EU?

          Your other points are interesting corollaries but do not refute the points in the post. To be clear: Were there (hypothetically ) a distributed product whose sole purpose was to remove scriptlets that prevent copying text, that hypothetical product *may indeed also run counter to anti-circumvention law* in the US, EU and other WIPO signatory nations. However that isn’t being argued here as it’s a hypothetical product and an entirely separate case. (?!).

          I also think you are intentionally misunderstanding the term “effective”. But that of course should be debated in court. I hope one day it is.

          • Anonymous User, again

            I’m not intentionally doing anything, it’s just how law is. You should face it, although it may not be favorable to your ** intention ** Oh, now it’s clear that you haven’t aware about this point, if not intentionally avoiding it, that the law only protects effective technological measures.

            “effectiveness” is important in determining whether some technological measure should be protected or not, and without a solid argument on it, your statement that “BlockAdblock and other anti-adblock systems are technological measures” and “adblockers circumventing anti-adblock system are illegal”, would be vacuous.

            My argument about detection mechanism also strengthens that access-control by means of indirect detection is not effective. By saying “process of treatment = detection of no adblocker”, you imply that it detects adblockers in an effective way, which in fact can be caused by server-side errors, do-not-track features integrated in browsers, and other browser extensions like Stylish. I agree that this should be debated in court. But until then, you should stop spreading intentionally misunderstood interpretation of the law.

          • BlockAdblock

            Not so. It is easily provable that adblockers are intentionally circumventing anti-adblock measures with purpose-built features. Without the addition of those features, access is impossible. Efficacy speaks for itself in those cases.

            The false positives you mention are irrelevant to the intent (or the actual result) of built-to-circumvent adblockers like Adblock Plus and others.

            This is without question (and by their own words) “intentional circumvention” of a technological anti-access control measure, and the clear distribution of a product whose purpose is circumvention.

          • The following are simple policies that an add-on can implement. Which ones are “built-to-circumvent”?

            A. Do not load anything (images, scripts, etc.) from third-party domains
            B. Do not load SWF from hostnames other than those chosen by the user

            C. Do not load video content types from URL prefixes other than those chosen by the user

          • AntiAdblock

            Uh… Did you even read the article? None of those constitutes circumvention. Adblocking is legal, as is stated above. Circumvention of anti-Adblock scripts is illegal.

          • Certain parts of the entertainment industry have historically held a
            very broad definition of “circumvention”. So I was asking how to avoid not only circumvention but also the appearance of circumvention while fighting ad misbehavior.

          • Chilly8

            Not if you block the URL, at the router level, where the scripts are loaded from it is not. As a network admin, you have the right to block any URL or web address you wish, including anti-adblock scripts.

            Blocking, which will knock out anti-adblock scripts on many sites, is no different than blocking the ads themselves, it is fully legal to do so.




            Heres MY ad rule: If it distrupts blocks or inturrupts content (such as popups and video ads) IM gonna block it

      • Chilly8

        However, blocking the URL, at the router level, that prevents anti-adblock scripts from even being loaded, does not violate the DMCA, since merely blocking a URL on your router is not considered hacking under either the DMCA or CFAA.


        But this is worse as if we DONT have adblock we might still get blocked

  • FuckBlockAdBlock

    Ok so if adblockers are breaking the law how come YOU GUYS are not breaking the law by anti-circumvention of my ADBLOCK!

    • hostile_17

      It is not affecting the use of the software at all, it’s just selectively choosing to prevent access to some users of a website – which is the right of any website owner.

      • Chilly8

        Same thing as when a network operator chooses to block the URL which loads the URL of the detector. they are not affecting the way the software runs on the server, and blocking access to a URL does not violate any laws

  • FiOS-Dave

    When will this end? AdBlock, BlockAdBlock, BlockBlockAdBlock, BlockBlockBlockAdBlockAdBlockBlocker. I believe that the answer is for advertisers to be creative and entice users to watch their ads! Offer discounts, Promos, etc. Ensure that the ad content does NOT block the information, nor does it visually or audibly disturb the user. I find it offensive when an ad flashes on and off repeatedly next to, over or under material that needs the users full and undivided attention.

  • That’d be fine if I could tell a major web search engine to exclude documents that use this sort of access control from results.

    • betyoudid

      You can try but I doubt anyone with significance will even listen to you. You sound like a dictator and such kind of mindset has no place in free market.

      • How does requesting that a feature be added to the user settings of a web search engine make me “a dictator”?

  • klo

    You do understand that the whole FREE internet runs on ad revenue…

  • ???

    If ad blockers are breaking the law, then how do malicious ads that execute scripts secretly, or social media buttons and advertising scrips (like AdSense, among others) that track the user without his or her knowledge or consent don’t? I get that certain aspects of intellectual property laws are indeed broken by circumvention use, but the right to privacy is commonly considered to be a universal human right.

  • Chilly8

    It depends on how the circumvention is done. One method that does not violate the DMCA is to merely block the URLs od the detector scripts. Merely blocking a URL on your router, does not violate the law. If it did, The “web ads” category on all the major filtering softwware vendors would be illegal.

    So all you corporate network admins reading this, who choose to, say, block, which will knock out AdBlock detection on many websites, are not violating any laws, since the network operators have the right to block any network address they wish.

    BlockAdBlock is the only AdBlock in the world I have found that cannot be defeated by this measure, since it does not rely on loadinga Java or CSS script.

    Since you are blocking a URL, and hacking the AdBlock detection script directly, this does not violate the DMCA.

  • Paul Maher

    ….which… doesn’t defeat BlockAdblock. Try again.

    • Marco

      Why did you delete my comment? To scam people saying the block-adblock is perfect? Talk for yourself. I’ve killed his blocker and I am here, with my adblock blocking more than 15 useless scripts I do not need to see the content.

      • betyoudid

        Idiot this page is on a gridserver and not the actual blockadblock page. Go to blockadblock dot com and test your tricks, oh and I didn’t mean your photo editing tricks.



  • Zulus

    If I create an app . Or book that blocks out browsers that have ad block enabled and someone tries to circumvent that to gain access that sounds like theft . But the majority of people don’t feel that way because they believe that if it’s on a website no matter who created it belongs to them.
    I would love to see that happen in someone’s home but I’m not worry too much since I don’t work as much online anymore so I give nothing away free now… everything is paid.
    I do market to a different audience which is older versus under 20. The under 20 or under 25 age group are more likely to break a company meaning they would not be sustainable weather be a developer, game developer, app developer or journalist they’re not sustainable so now I just ignore them.

  • Rob Jackson

    bad ads make up the majority

  • PrincessCelestia1230

    i am using ublock (adblocker) on this site and i AM VERY VERY HAPPY that this site is NOT making any MONEY

    • BlockAdblock

      This blog isn’t commercial, Princess.
      It doesn’t make money, serve ads or block adblockers.

      • Eric West

        actually it does block ad-blockers. nice try though


        I get through your stuff i see your “We block adblockers here” Sign so dont play games with uf fucker

  • Tan Zhi Kai

    Thankfully, I can bypass this useless shit and write this by shrinking the window small enough or by using an anti-antiadblock.

  • Travis Hughes

    You know what? FORCE A SENSIBLE SET OF STANDARDS ON ADVERTISERS AND PEOPLE WOULDN’T BLOCK ADS. The reason people block ads isn’t because they don’t like ads or maliciously want to deprive people of money. It’s because the ads are huge, loud, invasive, intrusive, sometimes disguised as not advertising (which should be considered fraudulent)… when ads INTERFERE with a person’s ability to engage the content which they’ve requested, it causes them to go elsewhere for similar content (thus depriving the publisher of income) or to install adblockers (thus depriving the publisher of income).

    When you add in the ridiculous privacy violations that ads are often capable of and intended for, as well as the fact that so many ad services *do not seem to police the ads they push* and thus serve malicious code, you can see why people are anti-ads.

    To put it succinctly: ADVERTISERS ARE THEIR OWN PROBLEM.

    • SunShine

      I had a long talk with a group of 30 students at a local uni — all did not want any ads at all. Period. It was not quality. It was not content. They do not want any ads ever. Thus, the days of information sharing are coming to an end and the web will be populated only by product sites.

    • Killer Taco210

      The problem with that is, some websites DON’T put ads everywhere, or anywhere intrusive, but they still have to suffer. Why? Because of stupid adblock.



      • Samantha

        Because of Adblock? Hardly! I installed adblock because of the websites that DO put ads everywhere.

      • The moment there’s third-party tracking, it’s already “intrusive”. But if a website displays ads without third-party tracking, as Daring Fireball and Read the Docs, they will be displayed even to users of tracking blockers such as Disconnect and Firefox’s built-in blocker.

    • Samantha

      This exactly. Popups suck, page-hogging blocks suck, if you’re gonna bypass adblock software for chrissake do not give us a big page-breaking notify about it. Detect the thing, figure out how to run small ads that DO NOT CREATE NUISANCE.

      I just went into a page bugged by something called Block Adblock. Great, you’ve detected that I have an adblocker. Instead of making safe ads that run anyway, you have made it your job

      I don’t mind tiny pictures on the top or side corners of the page. But I block pages when they create stuff like “Please Take A Moment While We Redirect You” or “This Video Will Advertise Every Three Min While You’re Watching a Show” or my fave popup ads.

      • betyoudid

        Don’t want to visit websites that block adblock users? THEN DON’T. That’s the point of anti circumvention mechanisms like blockadblock. To keep the leechers out and save expensive hosting resources. To hell where you go next and please never look back! That’s the point of blocking ADBLOCK USERS, because we publishers do not care. We just want nothing to do with you, we don’t force ads but also we dont want to give access to our content. I don’t see what are you whining about; you are being given a choice to disable adblock or phuck off. Nobody cares about your demands, you are only 1 useless viewer so just leave the next time you see such anti adblocker..

        • How do I configure the major web search engines not to recommend sites in categories that I have chosen not to visit, such as sites that require consent to third-party tracking as a condition of access?

    • John Warr

      More succinctly – without the adblockers advertisers allow Google onto our devices. If they used a different ad network I might allow them through. As it is if the content is blocked I’ll just turn off javascript, and reload the page.

  • Eric West

    Actually, according to the Eu, BlockAdblock is illegal, without first getting consent to check on plugin use. Nice try though 😀

  • Scotty Watty

    Oh did adblock not break the law good for adblock keep it up adblock I use and I don’t care

  • Ian Wardell

    I think this is unfair. The advertisers will still be selling their products and services at an increased price to recuperate advertising costs. People who use ad-blockers will be charged these higher prices just like anyone else, except they don’t have access to many websites.

    And advertising on the net and TV is both unethical and incredibly irrational. It should be banned and people pay for the content directly.

  • Confused MAn

    What the fuck is BlockAdblock?

    • banana

      something that prevents users from using adblock or preventing them from having access to the site (or at least, that’s what the internet says)

    • Samantha

      Apparently, it’s one the Mods for this (*cough*propaganda) website disqus.

  • SunShine

    And it’s our decision as a publisher, employer of writers who need to be paid to deny you the right to view our content. You should choose to visit only product sites. That’s the web you want I bet.


      oh yeah as i keep saying find new ways to make money hackers can hack your ads and it not my job to support you go on youtube and get revenue for me watching your videos then ill be glad to help by watching YOUTUBE VIDEOS NOT ADS

      • betyoudid

        You dont get to have a say idiot. Why do you feel so entitled to force your access to websites that blocks adblock users? It’s either you disable your adblocker and get the fuck out. Why is that so difficult to understand? Oh yeah because you’re an idiot. You only own your computer and your internet access, not the websites you visit. You don’t like how the website operate? LEAVE IT THEN.

    • It could also be your decision as a publisher to host the advertisements that appear on your website on the same domain as the rest of the website. Advertisers would upload creative for you to approve and then pay you directly to put it in slots in your inventory. Do this instead of relying on third-party adtech, and tracking blockers will allow your ad.

  • None

    People that create ads for the internet appear to have zero ethics. They serve up scans, malware etc. The ads are dangerous. I personally enjoy teaching people how to disable scripts or access content by manually disabling anti adblock features. I encourage people to never disable adblock or whitelist sites. I’m sorry to say that content providers and ad creators have created this problem themselves.

  • Killer Taco210

    once again, not all ads intrude on people’s experience, but some do, yet that still doesn’t justify making EVERYONE suffer.

  • betyoudid

    It is definitely your right to choose whether to block ads or not. But it is also our right as publishers/webmasters to restrict access for users who block ads. You make a choice, either disable your adblocker or get the fuck out. Nothing is being forced so there’s no reason to cry. Surely when the time comes that most websites that you visit starts charging fees for premium access you would also start crying and would wish that you just settled with ads. Imagine Youtube and Facebook charging you for monthly access ha I bet your broke ass will be out of the loop.

    • I don’t use an ad blocker. But I do use a third-party tracking blocker, and too many websites mistakenly detect it as an ad blocker.

  • Matthew Pena

    I am just here eating my popcorn and watching the fireworks in 4K with no ads

  • Arthur Arkwright

    Try this, advertiser’s: would you be prepared to accept a reverse charge phone call, knowing it was from some cretin trying to market you something? Would you pay the Post Office for an unfranked letter to you, knowing it was marketing junk? No?Thought not. So why do you expect those of us on metered Internet services to pay for downloading your idiot marketing content we neither need nor want? Please explain – and make it damn convincing.

  • cowboyclayt

    I wouldn’t care for ads except for the fact that they can be inappropriate. One bad ad can wreck a life, and I don’t want to be in that number.