Germany’s supreme court has rejected a legal case that sought to stop people using the popular Adblock Plus program that removes ads from websites.
The lawsuit was started three years ago by German publishing giant Axel Springer.
It alleged that the way Adblock Plus stopped people seeing adverts on its sites amounted to unfair competition.
Axel Springer said it would continue its legal challenge by taking the issue to Germany’s Constitutional Court.
Adblock Plus is widely used to stop intrusive pop-up adverts and limit tracking by websites of where people go online. Adblock Plus creator Eyeo, which is based in Cologne, claims the PC version of its software has been downloaded more than 400 million times.
The German publishing firm first complained about Adblock Plus in 2015, alleging that it broke competition laws by letting firms pay to be on a “white list” to stop their ads being blocked. It took the case to the Supreme Court after losing the first round of legal action in 2015.
Other German media firms that also launched related legal action said the simple blocking of adverts was a violation of local laws designed to promote competition.
The Supreme Court disagreed with Springer’s allegations and said no laws were being broken because it was up to individual users whether they used the software.
It also overturned a lower court ruling that forced Eyeo to white list some adverts for free.
Eyeo welcomed the ruling and said in a statement that it was “excited that Germany’s highest court upheld the right every internet citizen possesses to block unwanted advertising online”.
After the verdict, Claas-Hendrick Soehring, Springer’s head of media law, said the ruling was “an attack on the heart of the free media”.