ISPs File First Major Anti-Spam Lawsuits

NEW YORK America Online, Earthlink, Microsoft and Yahoo! last night jointly filed the first major industry lawsuits under the new federal anti-spam law, which went into effect Jan. 1.

The four e-mail and Internet service providers collectively filed six legal complaints in federal courts in California, Georgia, Virginia and Washington state, charging hundreds of defendants with sending bulk unsolicited e-mail messages to the plantiffs’ customers.

“Congress gave us the necessary tools to pursue spammers with stiff penalties, and we in the industry didn’t waste a moment—moving with speed and resolve to take advantage of the new law,” said AOL executive vice president and general counsel Randall Boe in a statement.

The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act, or CAN-SPAM Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush late last year, calls for damages up to $250 per spam e-mail with a cap of $2 million that can be tripled for aggravated violations [IQ Daily Briefing, Dec. 16, 2003]. For e-mails using false or deceptive headers, the cap does not apply.

Some of the common allegations described in the lawsuits include: deceptive solicitations for a variety of products such as get-rich-quick schemes, prescriptions drugs, pornography and mortgage loans; sending spam through third-party computers to disguise the point of origin; falsified “from” e-mail addresses; absence of a physical address in the e-mail; and absence of an electronic unsubscribe option.