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Suing spammers

I’m off to MAAWG next week and seem to have had barely enough time to breathe lately, much less blog. I have a half written post, but it’s taking a little more research to put together. That can wait until I get the chance to do the research.
Instead I thought I’d talk about the North Coast Journal article “The Rise and Fall of a Spam Crusader.” It’s quite an interesting article and looks into the personal and business sacrifices that people make in order to chase down spammers.
In my experience a lot of the serial litigators have very poor practices around data collection and analysis. They don’t collect evidence, they just collect email and then make assertions and assumptions. This not every effective when having to convince a judge that you are right.
The article actually does nothing to change this impression. The cases ASIS won are the cases where the defendants didn’t respond. That also means that ASIS couldn’t collect.
I do disagree with Mr. Singleton, the lawyer, where he says CAN SPAM is dead. In many cases I’ve seen there aren’t clear CAN SPAM violations. So if he’s trying to sue these spammers under CAN SPAM his cause of action is wrong. Secondly, the article goes on to talk about the broader implications.

what’s most galling, [Singleton] said, is how the ruling effectively eliminated ISPs’ ability to be bounty hunters, the role to which they were duly anointed by the CAN-SPAM Act.

Uh. No. ISPs are allowed to legally prosecute spammers, but no ISP I know of that has successfully gone after spammers has actually treated this as a bounty hunt. Sure, there have been some court wins and some settlements, but I don’t believe any ISP has won enough money to cover all their legal expenditures. And one time there was an actual transfer of property from spammer to ISP and the ISP raffled off the spammer’s Porsche to its users.

3 comments

  1. steve says

    I’ve worked as a consultant / expert for lawyers in a bunch of anti-spam lawsuits over the past decade.
    The ones where the plaintiffs are zealot anti-spammers (as opposed to real ISPs or companies) tend to be the worst in terms of professionalism. Ambulance-chaser lawyers with class action dollar signs in their eyes are one common trait. Serial litigation is another. A belief that because they don’t like something then there must be some way to twist that into it being illegal is the most common one.
    There have been several cases I’ve backed out from being involved with because I wasn’t comfortable with the level of truth and honesty in the statements of the plaintiffs.
    The cases where the plaintiffs were real ISPs or real companies (rather than single-user “ISPs” set up primarily to be litigants) have generally been the exact opposite, with clear business goals for the litigation, sensible legal arguments and a total dearth of long, rambling whiny conference calls with the plaintiffs.

  2. William Silverstein says

    Wasn’t it Earthlink that started in a garage? Craigslist was started as a hobby. I started because I have been trying to develop some niche services and got pissed of at the idiocy of dealing with iPowerWeb, which turned out to be hacked and account credentials were stolen without notifying users. Spam hurts a small ISP more than a large one, as there are economies of scale, and difficulties in a nascent business, which larger ones have already overcome.
    Asis is not a Gordon as it did provide ISP services and hosting. What Singleton was referring to is a ruling that an ISP has to show harm, ie. system crashes, from the e-mails complained of in that lawsuit, not just the additional costs associated with spam filtering or spam loads. The only time that type of harm can be shown is an ISP who is setup solely as a Plaintiff so as their system would crash regularly.
    A legitimate ISP would design their systems so they would be sufficiently robust so that the spam load would not cause crashes. Would any legitimate ISP be able to show that type of harm? Could Microsoft, Google, or Yahoo show harm from 10 million e-mails in a day? Under standard in Asis v. Azoogle, no legitimate ISP could bring suit.

  3. Rawest Chick says

    I have over 15,999 emails of spam and I really need my email for my business it is causing too much stress and i cant even load my mail fast enough to recieve the important mail this is really turning me gray and making me lose it

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