In our last post, we discussed about why one should adopt measures to avoid getting hit by spam laws. And yes we did on go on to say that CANSPAM laws are legally enforceable mainly in the United States by the Federal Trade Commission. Now let us inform you about a few companies and individuals that have been hit hard by these very laws. These companies, as you shall get to know in a bit, had to shell out a lot of dollars to compensate for their mistakes, some of which may have been inadvertent.
Company Involved: ValueClick
Compensation Amount: $2.9 million
ValueClick’s subsidiary Hi-Speed Media ended up shelling $2.9 million for sending out deceptive e-mails, banner ads, and pop-ups to drive consumers to its sites. When we told you not to use the ‘f’ word, we learnt that from this case as the e-mails and online ads claimed that consumers were eligible for ‘free’ gifts, including laptops, iPods, and high-value gift cards…”
Takeaway: Nothing sells like free. Using the ‘f’ word can be misleading AND costly.
Compensation: $2 million
Second is Microsoft Corporation V/s. Mizhen et al. Microsoft sued Mizhen, among others, alleging that he gamed Microsoft’s filters by opening up millions of Hotmail accounts and hitting the”this is not spam” button for his own mail. This wasn’t the first time the Mizhen was sued by the corporate giant. The first case was settled earlier and the second time Mizhen had to pay Microsoft $2,000,000 and promise not to spam MS users any longer
Takeaway: trying to hit “this is not spam” can backfire
Lawsuit #3′: SPIM’ Lawsuit
Company Involved: AOL
The AOL suits allege violations of the federal CAN-SPAM law, the Virginia antispam state law and state common law. The lawsuits together are based on more than 2 million complaints from AOL members globally, and based on hundreds of millions of spam e-mails. One of the AOL lawsuits is the first to specifically target “SPIM” — the spam equivalent for Internet messaging and chat room messaging — for AOL.
Takeaway: SPAM isn’t just restricted to email alone, nor are CAN-SPAM laws
Companies involved: Small ISP in the US
Compensation: $1 Billion
A federal judge has awarded an Internet service provider more than $1 billion in what is believed to be the largest judgment ever against spammers. Robert Kramer, whose company provides e-mail service for about 5,000 subscribers in eastern Iowa, filed suit against 300 spammers after his inbound mail servers received up to 10 million spam e-mails a day in 2000, according to court documents. AMP Dollar Savings Inc. of Mesa, Ariz., was ordered to pay $720 million and Cash Link Systems Inc. of Miami, Fla., was ordered to pay $360 million. The third company, Florida-based TEI Marketing Group, was ordered to pay $140,000. It was made possible by an Iowa law that allows plaintiffs to claim damages of $10 per spam message.
Takeaway: It’s not only the big corps who can claim huge damages
Company Involved: Project Honey Pot
Compensation: $1 Billion
On Thursday, April 26, 2007 at 10:54am in a court in the Eastern District of Virginia, Project Honey Pot filed the largest anti-spam lawsuit ever. Seeking more than $1B in statutory damages, the suit was brought on behalf of our members. It targets a huge swath of spammers. If one harvested email addresses or sent spam in the last two years, chances are one would be on their radar screen and they would becoming after you.
The CAN SPAM act has been in place for five and a half years. Compatible state laws have been in place nearly as long. Anti-spam laws in the EU, Australia, and New Zealand were enacted years ago. But the number of significant anti-spam lawsuits is so small that even individual bloggers can easily keep track of them. Considering that several billion spam emailsa day are sent to people’s inboxes, where are all the anti-spam lawsuits? There are a couple of reasons, but by far the largest one is that, unless the recipient is unusually lucky, anti-spam lawsuits are difficult to prosecute and win. The evidence in such suits is very technical — mail headers, WHOIS data, trace routes, ASN numbers, affiliate codes and HTTP redirections that tie a sender to a particular message, or more likely, a thousand messages. Judges tend to be reasonably smart, but few of them have a technical background. That means that before a judge can rule sensibly on a spam case, he or she needs to learn about the statutes and case law that apply, and also enough about e-mail technology to understand the evidence and evaluate the credibility of the lawyers’ arguments on each side. But if the above examples are anything to go by, it pays to conform to CAN-SPAM laws and how.