Major e-mail providers sue dozens of spammers

AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo, Earthlink file six lawsuits

October 29, 2004|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

NEW YORK - Time Warner Inc.'s America Online unit, Microsoft Corp., EarthLink Inc. and Yahoo Inc. - the four largest U.S. Internet mail providers - sued dozens of junk e-mail senders yesterday in a second wave of lawsuits under a new U.S. law designed to curb spam.

The six lawsuits, filed in California, Georgia and Washington state, target senders of unwanted commercial e-mail peddling pornography, prescription pills, cheap mortgages and other products, the companies said in statements.

"AOL and our members continue to make spam-fighting a priority, and we continue to use the legal process on their behalf to help put a lid on the worst, most active spammers - no matter where they are, or how they send their unwanted junk," said AOL General Counsel Randall Boe.

It's the second round of complaints over junk e-mail filed by the Anti-Spam Alliance, founded in April 2003 and led mainly by the four companies.

AOL filed two suits in federal court in Alexandria, Va., naming 20 senders who use instant messaging and chat rooms to deliver messages and 10 senders peddling controlled substances including Vicodin and other prescription drugs. AOL didn't identify the senders.

The explosion of unwanted messages has become a major expense for businesses and a source of annoyance for Internet users. U.S. companies spent $785 million last year to block spam and protect their networks from viruses, according to the research firm Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

AOL, the world's largest Internet service, said its lawsuits were based on more than 2 million complaints from members, including AOL Europe and AOL Canada users.

The targets of the companies' suits are accused of spoofing the domains of all four Internet service providers, rerouting e- mail, designing messages to circumvent spam filters and attempting to collect and resell consumers' names and contact information.

Yahoo said it received 142,000 complaints related to unwanted e-mail from East Coast Exotics Entertainment Group Inc. and Epoth LLC. The company's suit, filed in federal court in San Jose, Calif., accused the companies of disguising their identity and using sexually explicit subject lines to send unsolicited sexually oriented e-mail.

The suits were filed under the "CAN-SPAM Act," which took effect Jan. 1. The law, Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003, increased the penalties and set additional limits on bulk e-mail. The law allows e-mail service providers to seek damages of between $25 and $100 for each piece of spam.

It also authorized the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to consider developing a "do-not-spam" registry that would be modeled after the "do-not-call" law passed last year targeting calls from telemarketers.

Most of those named in EarthLink, AOL and Microsoft's lawsuits are identified only as "John Does." The companies said they will be able to track down the people sued.

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