The nation's most powerful publishers—including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal—sent a letter Thursday to Brave Software, accusing the company of creating a web browser that steal publishers' content while removing their ads.
The browser, Brave, promises to block ads and trackers "that slow you down, spend your bandwidth, and invade your privacy." The company tells consumers it puts "clean ads back," and in turn funds website owners and shares some of the profit with users.
But a cease and desist letter sent to the San Francisco-based company and signed by 17 publishers accuses Brave of intending to profit from stolen content. "Your plan to use our content to sell your advertising is indistinguishable from a plan to steal our content to publish on your own website."
"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," said David Chavern, president of the Newspaper Association of America.
In a response published on Brave's website, the company notes the rise in consumer use of ad blockers—citing PageFair research that finds 236 million monthly users of ad-blocking software worldwide. "Make no mistake: this NAA letter is the first shot fired in a war on all ad-blockers, not just on Brave," the statement reads.
But Brave, created by Brendan Eich, the co-founder and former chief executive of Mozilla, insists it is not re-publishing stolen content with new advertising attached, but merely allowing consumers to block invasive third-party ads while supporting publishers. "The news industry is in catastrophic decline and has been for years. Brave has a model to change this dire trend by both funneling more ad revenue to publishers and allowing users to pay them directly."
"The NAA has fundamentally misunderstood Brave," the company says. "Brave is the solution, not the enemy."