Why Am I Able to Get Around Some Paywalls?

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Sometimes when a website has a paywall or other "wall" (maybe cookies enabling, account/email registering, etc.), the page starts to load and then a few seconds later an image will appear that says you have to do x/y/z to see the article.

I've found that I can reload the page and immediately click the stop loading button on my browser. That prevents the "wall blocking" mechanism from coming up. From there, I can just read the page's content.

Is this normal/legal? I mean, why pay $2, when you can just do what I did?
 

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  • #2
anorlunda
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There are other ways. I use a "plain text viewer" plug in to my browser (Mercury Reader). That's another simple way to circumvent those restrictions.

I think the content owners are satisfied if it blocks 90% of the non-paying viewers who will not attempt to circumvent. It is not necessary to worry about the remaining 10%.

Having a leaky paywall may also discourage those who would make a business of illegally reposting the content. Potential customers of that illegal business are those who would try to circumvent the paywall. If it is easier to find a loophole in the paywall than to pay the illegal business, they'll do that.

There are numerous sites that illegally provide movies and video. Providers of text content (The New York Times for example.) probably don't want an industry to be built based on pirated copies of their articles. It may also be cheaper to allow leaks in the paywall than to pay lawyers to chase pirates.
 
  • #3
fluidistic
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Sometimes when a website has a paywall or other "wall" (maybe cookies enabling, account/email registering, etc.), the page starts to load and then a few seconds later an image will appear that says you have to do x/y/z to see the article.

I've found that I can reload the page and immediately click the stop loading button on my browser. That prevents the "wall blocking" mechanism from coming up. From there, I can just read the page's content.

Is this normal/legal? I mean, why pay $2, when you can just do what I did?
When such things come in front of the website, hiding the content, sometimes blocking the element with ublock origin's picker work.
Several newspapers let me read a few articles per day, then I can only see the titles but when I click on them I am redirected to a page saying I have read too many articles to continue reading and that I should either wait 1 more day or subscribe to the newspaper. I can just use Tor Browser to access any article. I am not limited if I use Tor Browser.
I did not know about your trick, good to know.
 
  • #4
Vanadium 50
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Sometimes when I pass stores in the alleyway I find some windows unlocked. So I crawl on in and take what I want. I mean, why pay for what I want when I can get it for free?
 
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  • #5
DavidSnider
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Sometimes when I pass stores in the alleyway I find some windows unlocked. So I crawl on in and take what I want. I mean, why pay for what I want when I can get it for free?
the proper analogy would be getting a free magazine in the mail where they have covered up some of the articles with post it notes and request money to remove the post-it notes.
 
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  • #6
jack action
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When I encounter these I often disable Javascript and I can read the text without annoying blockers. Is that stealing? I mean, I asked them to send me the text and they did send it to me, right? Am I really obligated to run all the Javascript a website sends me?

If they didn't want me to read it, they shouldn't send it; just get paid first, it's really easy to do. Anyway, that's how it worked with the newspaper I used to get a few years ago. When I canceled my subscription, they still kept sending free copies (once a week) to lure me back in ... and I read them without paying! I cannot see how a website business model should be different.
 
  • #7
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the proper analogy would be getting a free magazine in the mail where they have covered up some of the articles with post it notes and request money to remove the post-it notes.
lol

I can still see the ethical point that a bad "theft prevention" device does not mean circumventing it is right. I won't do it anymore now that I think of it.

But I also like your analogy. It guess I was just shocked at how easy it was to still read an article behind some kind of wall. It's such a flimsy wall! I think I accidentally figured out the reload and stop reloading method...can't remember how/why, but once I saw that it worked, I just tried it with lots of websites. It doesn't work on them all, but for many it does.

For websites giving you x-free articles (before you have to register), I find just clearing my history/cookies and going back to the site afterwards works to get more free articles. I think it resets your limit to having read 0 of their articles or something.
 
  • #8
Tom.G
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Sometimes when I pass stores in the alleyway I find some windows unlocked. So I crawl on in and take what I want. I mean, why pay for what I want when I can get it for free?
That is more like the difference of crawling thru a window and walking thru an open door.

For instance here in California if your car is stolen, to get a conviction you have to testify that the car was locked.

That is apparently one reason rental cars are popular targets. Out-of-state visitors just don't want to be bothered with returning to testify when insurance has already paid for their losses.

OK, where is that next unlocked car? :eek:
 
  • #9
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Sometimes when I pass stores in the alleyway I find some windows unlocked. So I crawl on in and take what I want. I mean, why pay for what I want when I can get it for free?
I think that it's obnoxious to allow paywalled or registrant-only content in a list of links presented in response to a search engine query without an advisory in the link that the content is restricted.

Instructive information on how to present such an advisory is readily available: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/paywalled-content.

I find it especially obnoxious when a high-SEO-rank site like the NYT does it with an AP story that's readly available for free if you go to sites that don't have as high an SEO ranking.

I think that your analogy is flawed, in that people who circumvent content access restrictions for their own use do not deprive the owners of the content, as people who take things from open store windows deprive the owners of the things taken.

I recognize that reselling copies of the content, or giving it away and thereby depriving the owner of revenue that he might otherwise receive, is more like the theft of unsecured property in the analogy, in that it deprives the owner of a benefit of ownership; however, even that does not deprive the owner of possession of the thing owned.
 
  • #10
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Is this normal/legal? I mean, why pay $2, when you can just do what I did?
Some Nature and Nature communication articles want me to pay USD$28 (each) or so just to be able to read them for 28-days, and not have the ability to save or print them. I wonder if your tricks work those websites....
 
  • #11
anorlunda
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I think that it's obnoxious to allow paywalled or registrant-only content in a list of links presented in response to a search engine query without an advisory in the link that the content is restricted.
I agree. That would be a welcome feature in search engines. But ...

It is extra annoying when you arrive there from a news aggregator like Google News, because when you clicked on the link, you don't know where it will take you.

I use a partial solution. In Google News, every link includes a button for "ignore this source in the future" So if I'm annoyed by being blocked, I go back to Google News and exclude that provider as a future news source. The NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post were among the first ones I blocked.

The more positive approach would be a central clearing house for payments analogous to iTunes for music. I'm willing to pay $25/month for access to all news from all sources, but not $25/month for access from a single source. Similarly, I would be willing to pay $0.10 per article regardless of source. IMO online news is exactly analogous to online music. Consumers, not providers need to be in control of payment methods, and consumers want a central deal rather than negotiations with each source.

By the way, Steve Jobs was not the inventor of the iTunes idea. There used to be a company in Schenectady, NY named FINSERV. They collected fees from radio stations playing music. Pennies per play. FINSERV aggregated the payments and distributed the money to the artists. It was a very pragmatic solution compared to making 104 radio stations and 104 artists negotiate 108 legal contracts. Each radio station could write one check per month to FINSERV (plus a list of songs played). Each artist could receive one check per month from FINSERV. The size of the per-play fee was negotiated nationally.
 
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  • #12
Keith_McClary
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I think I accidentally figured out the reload and stop reloading method
Me too, long ago, but I forgot it. I'm surprised it still works.
Some sites will grey out the screen and pop up a box, but you can mouse over the greyed area and scroll to read the article (IIRC, it freezes annoying ads)!
 

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