Today a California judge ruled against plaintiffs suing reunion.com. Venkat has blogged about the case previously, and has an analysis of the ruling. The crux of the case is reunion.com requesting users provide passwords to email accounts and then sending mail claiming to be from the user to all the addresses in the users address book.
According to Mediapost:
the plaintiffs alleged that these types of messages are deceptive because they appear to come from people’s friends rather than the site itself. The consumers sued the site for violating California’s anti-spam law, which prohibits e-mails with false or misleading headers and subject lines and provides for up to $1,000 per violation. The federal CAN-SPAM law preempts most state spam laws, but there’s an exception for state laws dealing with fraudulent e-mails.
The judge ruled that since the plaintiffs could not demonstrate actual damage from the email, that there was no case. Venkat says:
…to me the court’s preemption reading is way too broad here. […] State law doesn’t necessarily impose this requirement. State law (such as California law) allows pretty much everyone who receives an email to sue, and provides for statutory damages regardless of whether actual damages are suffered. To focus on whether the plaintiff suffered actual damage would pretty much raise the bar for spam lawsuits far beyond what is contained in state law.
I can’t disagree with Venkat’s analysis. I’m not really not sure that California lawmakers intended the plaintiff to have to prove actual monetary damages when suing for spam.