Newspaper giants threaten Brave over its ad-swapping browser

They claim that replacing native ads with others is a violation of copyright.

You remember how Brave's web browser pays you to see replacement ads (overriding a site's usual ads) when you don't pay to block promos outright? Yeah, publishers aren't very happy about that. A coalition of 17 news giants, including the New York Times and Dow Jones, has sent Brave a letter claiming that its ad-swapping business model is illegal. Allegedly, the approach is tantamount to copyright infringement. It's "indistinguishable" from stealing articles and posting them on another site, according to the publishers. The group also doesn't buy the argument that Bitcoin payments and revenue sharing will make up for the lack of native ads -- those methods "cannot begin to compensate" for the lost income.

Not surprisingly, Brave isn't having any of it. CEO Brendan Eich says the browser isn't replacing publishers' own ads, including any first-party ads that aren't using third-party tracking. It's trying to create a better ad network that actually pays more than third-party options, he argues. Eich goes so far as to suggest that the publishers are being disingenuous (especially when sidestepping their own ad privacy concerns), and are really attacking any browser with an ad blocker add-on or ad-free reading mode.

Brave says it's open to talking with the media group to argue its case, although it's hard to see those companies being very receptive when they not-so-subtly hint at possible legal action. Not that Brave is slowing down in the meantime. It just released a developer version of its browser with support for Chrome extensions, 1Password logins and blocks against everything from phishing scams to privacy-violating browser fingerprinting measures. In short, it's determined to fight privacy intrusions of all kinds, whether or not the perpetrators are in a position to object.