Newspaper Publishers and Bitcoin Browser Brave Tangle over Publishing Rights

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Brave Software Inc., the creator of a browser that blocks unwanted web ads and replaces them with ads generated by Brave with payouts in Bitcoin, has been advised by the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) that its plan to replace publishers’ ads on their own websites with Brave’s advertising is illegal, a charge that Brave immediately disputed. The NAA claims to have 17 member companies and more than 1,200 newspapers.

Brave will pay advertisers, users, agencies and publishers in bitcoin.

“Brave’s proposed business model crosses legal and ethical boundaries, and should be viewed as illegal and deceptive by the courts, consumers and those who value the creation of content,” David Chavern, NAA CEO, stated in a letter.

NAA States Its Case

The NAA letter said its sites and mobile applications give news reporting, video content, feature writing and photojournalism that is edited, researched and produced at “extraordinary” cost. The industry spends more than $5 billion per year on reporting in the U.S., and it distributes it online for free or at “highly subsidized rates” with online ad revenue.

Chavern said Brave should feel free to create its own content on its own platforms, but it cannot launch its advertising business “on the backs of our journalists, editors, technologists and other staff.”

The letter lists ways that Brave’s business model violates publishing rights to protect copyrighted content and trademarks.

The letter stated that Brave’s plan to allow customers to make bitcoin donations to NAA’s websites and for Brave to donate an unstated percentage of its revenue from the sale of ads to the NAA’s websites does not begin to compensate for the loss of its ability to fund its work by displaying its own advertising.

NAA Rejects Brave’s Offer

The NAA rejected compensation or consideration Brave will offer as part of its ad-replacing scheme, and refused to accept any “site wallet” that Brave would create for NAA’s benefit.

NAA said Brave is not authorized to use NAA’s trademarks, logos or names in any way connected to the operation of Brave’s business.

NAA noted that it stands ready to enforce all legal rights to protect copyrighted content and trademarks and to prevent Brave from deceiving consumers and unlawfully appropriating NAA’s work. The NAA said it reserves the right to seek remedies for infringement including but not limited to statutory damages of up to $150,000 per work.

NAA also said it believes Brave’s plan will constitute unfair competition and misappropriation under law.

Brave Responds

Brave disputed the NAA’s points on a blog.

Brave said its goal is to make the browsing experience easier, to allow users to see ads they are more likely to want to see, and to enable all parties to receive revenue in the process. The last part of this proposition – remuneration – is where bitcoin comes in. Brave will pay advertisers, users, agencies and publishers in bitcoin.

Brave said the NAA used false assertions and has misunderstood Brave. It listed the following misconceptions:

1. Brave is not replacing publishers’ ads on publishers’ websites and mobile apps with Brave’s own advertising. Brave said it does not tamper with any first-party publisher content, such as native ads that don’t use third-party tracking.

2. Brave is not attempting to steal profits from publishers. Brave is creating a better ad network with a bespoke browser connected anonymously to the network. Brave will pay the publishers more for the shared revenue through its system than most websites are currently receiving from third-party ads.

3. The NAA letter is incorrect in stating Brave will share an unspecified percentage of revenue when its revenue share split has been fixed from its January preview release.
Brave said it provides the lion’s share to websites. The default money from its ad-share model flows to up to 70% of ad revenue to site publishers, which is greater than the average percentage in the existing display ad ecosystem. Brave keeps 15% and permits the end user to choose to donate or maintain their 15% share. Keeping their share still delivers 55% ad revenue share to site owners, which surpasses the current 45% average.

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4. As the news industry is declining, Brave’s model changes this by sending more ad revenue to publishers and enabling users to pay them directly.

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5. Excessive, abusive and dangerous advertising drives users to adopt ad blockers, a trend that will not change due to legal threats, harsh language or server-side anti-blocker countermeasures. Brave noted that malware entered the websites of the BBC and The New York Times recently on account of a poorly-delegated, third-party technology ecosystem.

Brave Calls Itself A Solution

Brave argues it is a solution and not a problem for content users and publishers. It claims to provide privacy, protection from malware, speed, and an anonymous payment model that supports the industry and publishers in particular compared to the status quo.

The violation of individual privacy has reached “epidemic” proportions, Brave stated. The NAA letter misconstrues how browsers and web standards work by design. The web allows users to consume content in any presentation and combination that user-selected software can provide.

Browsers do not simply play back recorded pixel from publisher sites. Instead, browsers are an end-user agent to mediate and combine all the content elements, including third-party ads and first-party publisher news stories. Web content publishes as HTML markup documents with the mission of not specifying how content is presented to the browser user.

Browsers can rearrange, ignore mash up and make use of content from any source.

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If Brave browsers performed “republication,” the Safari’s Reader mode does the same thing, Brave noted. This is true for any browser with an ad blocker extension, the links text-only browser, or screen readers for visually impaired people.

NAA Out Of Line?

“Make no mistake: this NAA letter is the first shot fired in a war on all ad-blockers, not just on Brave,” the letter noted.

Brave said it is willing to discuss with NAA how the solution can be a win-win for its users and the publishers they browse.

“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,” Brave noted.

Images from Brave.

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