WSJ Debate on Advertiser Liability for Adware

By Eric Goldman

Today, the Wall Street Journal published an email debate between me and Ari Schwartz of the Center for Democracy and Technology about advertiser responsibility for adware.

Regular blog readers know that this has been a hot button issue of mine for some time because I think it’s vitally important. The contours of liability will determine the future viability of the adware business. And depending on the precedents set in the adware context, advertisers could face liability for the acts of media vendors in other media. These have tremendous consequences for the flow of both advertising information and for ad-supported editorial content.

Ari is a great sparring partner and someone I respect a lot, but unfortunately the word “responsibility” is inherently ambiguous. As a result, in our debate Ari focused a lot on branding consequences to advertisers from running ads delivered by adware, while I focused mostly on existing legal precedents. The fact that we emphasize different aspects of this issue shows how easy it is for people to talk past each other on this topic. Nevertheless, I believe the WSJ debate is one of the more extensive and detailed discussions on the topic of advertiser liability for adware, so I highly commend it to you.