Steal this eLab

Is it really a crime to block online ads?

Now, before I get into the column, I want to make sure that all of you are looking at (and preferably clicking on) the advertisements in this page, because if you arent, then you are practically stealing this column.

And if youre using any kind of image- or ad-blocking software, you may be an evil, Al-Capone-like thief. Why, oh why, must you break the sacred implied contract that commands you to dutifully view every ad as a sort of payment for this wonderful content?

OK, Im kidding, but there are people out there who arent. Earlier this year, the CEO of Turner Broadcasting equated using a Digital Video Recording device to skip commercials with stealing. Now, given the fact that these types of devices are becoming extremely popular, why would a company basically call its own customers thieves?

And TBS isnt the only one. Recording companies are suing ISPs in order to get the names of people downloading files from P2P networks, in order to sue people who are most likely huge music fans. They are also busily limiting the capabilities of their own products (and trying to limit other products) in order to prevent piracy, although in the process they are also making their products less flexible for all users.

And, of course, software companies want to add controls that allow them to make sure your system has only software that you have paid for, but they are going to have to make your software less secure in order to do this.

And dont even get me started on the broadband companies that entice you to sign up with flashy ads showing all the multimedia and games you can download with your new, fast connection—and then, when you use it like the people in the ads, call you a bandwidth hog.

Basically, all of these moves end up being attacks by companies on their own customers. It seems to me that in tough times you should do everything possible to keep current customers and get new ones. But most of these companies seem to be more concerned with saving a buck today, even if it will end up costing them $100 tomorrow.

Now get up there and click on that ad! (just kidding).

Are companies attacking their best customers? Let me know at