Easylist is a popular adblocking list that is used by browser extensions to block advertisement on websites visited in the browser.
As the name suggests already, EasyList is just a list of domain names that websites are blocked from making connections to. So, instead of contacting an ad server to download an ad from it, the connection is blocked.
EasyList is hosted on GitHub, and as such all of the lists that are maintained by the project are accessible by anyone.
A recent commit to the list saw the removal of a domain from it. The reason given was “removed due to DMCA takedown request”, and the line in question that was removed was ||functionalclam.com^$third-party.
The commit did not reveal more information, but a blog post on Adguard shed some light on the issue. According to the article there, the domain was added 25 days ago to Easylist.
The domain in question belongs to a startup called Admiral. Admiral offers anti-adblocking solutions that include analytics and revenue recovery services.
The DMCA notice states that “The code in question attempts to circumvent copyright access controls to copyrighted content on the site” (that is functionalclam.com).
The notice is therefore about circumvention of a publisher’s paywall, and not about the use of the domain name in the list as some sites reported.
Admiral published a blog post that explains the company’s reasoning. It comes down to the following points:
- The domain in question is not an ad server.
- The domain is used by Admiral to prevent the circumvention of paywalls.
- The company believes that circumvention is not the primary mission of adblockers, and that it is not an “ok” thing to do.
- Admiral asked the list maintainers to remove the content when it was added.
The EasyList maintainers complied with the request as it feared that failure to do so would put “the Easylist repo in jeopardy”. They appear to agree with the removal of the filter from the list, as they state.
If it is a Circumvention/Adblock-Warning adhost, it should be removed from Easylist even without the need for a DMCA request.
The response was overwhelmingly against the removal of the domain from the list. Other lists have added Admiral domains, and a user created a browser extension called BarbBlock that blocks domains that were removed from adblocking lists based on DMCA notices.
A good read on the topic of adblockers potentially violating DMCA can be found here.
Now You: What’s your take on this?
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