AOL's e-mail addresses threatened

January 02, 1998|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

A fledgling business group is threatening to make public the electronic addresses of 5 million America Online customers if the world's largest online service refuses to accept unsolicited commercial e-mail from its members.

Joe Melle, president of the National Organization of Internet Commerce in Chino, Calif., said the companies in his 3-month-old group want to use electronic mail to pitch products cheaply to AOL's 10 million members.

NOIC wants to send the unsolicited e-mail -- called "spam" -- but AOL has refused to enter into negotiations with the group.

Melle had planned to post the electronic addresses of 1 million AOL customers on New Year's Day, but AOL threatened to sue. The business group then announced Wednesday that it would post 5 million addresses Jan. 8.

"There are any number of ways for them to get their message across or sell their products, but I don't think that gives them the right to use our network to distribute their message and bombard our members or certainly to hold our members hostage," said Randall Boe, associate general counsel for AOL in Dulles, Va.

The online service has successfully sued "spammers" for trespassing on its private computer network. But it is not clear whether AOL would prevail against an organization that is merely publishing a list of e-mail addresses.

The 5 million addresses are available on CD-ROMs sold by one of NOIC's charter members.

While marketers insist they have a right to make sales pitches using e-mail, "netizens" have complained loudly that their electronic in-boxes are being flooded with annoying messages, often selling pornography and questionable get-rich-quick schemes.

Pub Date: 1/02/98

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