AOL Announces New Round Of Spam Lawsuits

AOL’s lawsuits are noteworthy and unique in nature. The first AOL lawsuit, filed against twenty “John Does”, is the Company’s very first lawsuit that expressly targets “SPIM” – unwanted communications to online consumers via instant messaging tools or chat rooms.

The other lawsuit is the very first AOL legal action to target a spammer peddling controlled substances, including Vicodin and other pharmaceuticals, which are legally available only with a physician’s prescription. This lawsuit, filed against ten “John Does”, is also noteworthy because it is the first time AOL is filing a spam lawsuit based on a large number of complaints specifically determined to be from AOL Europe and AOL Canada members.

Both AOL lawsuits were filed in Federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia, located in Alexandria, VA. The complaints identify “John Does” as Defendants, and seek Court injunctions to stop the illegal conduct; statutory damages totaling millions of dollars; and disgorgement of illegal profits (asset forfeiture). AOL is alleging violations of the Federal CAN-SPAM law, the Virginia anti-spam state law, and state common law. The lawsuits are together based on over two million complaints from AOL members globally, and based on hundreds of millions of spam emails.

“These lawsuits demonstrate that AOL’s assault on spammers on behalf of our members continues unabated. 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 Randall Boe, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of AOL.

“This means pursuing spammers who are either using new platforms, such as instant messaging or chat rooms, or those who are peddling junk to our members abroad, such as Europe or Canada, or pursuing spammers who are advertising dangerous drugs,” Boe added. “Popping a pill prescribed by a spammer is akin to online ‘Russian roulette’ or online trick-or-treating – you never know what you’re going to get, and it could end up being more than just a scary trick.”

The round of lawsuits announced today by AOL, Microsoft, EarthLink and Yahoo! is the second time junk email-related enforcement actions have been filed by the Anti-Spam Alliance, which was founded in April 2003 and is chiefly led by the four companies. On March 10, 2004, these Companies collaborated to file the very first major industry lawsuits against spammers alleging violations under the new CAN-SPAM federal law, which went into effect on January 1st, 2004.

Information on the other Companies’ lawsuits filed today follows:

— Microsoft: Three lawsuits allege that defendants spoofed the domains of all four Internet service providers and used open proxies to route the emails. The defendants – one named and two “John Does” – allegedly sent millions of emails soliciting herbal growth supplements, mortgage services and get-rich-quick schemes, all in violation of the CAN-SPAM federal law;

— EarthLink: Filed a lawsuit against numerous “John Doe” defendants who used illegal and deceptive e-mails to advertise prescription drugs available without a legitimate prescription and low mortgage or loan rates, in many cases attempting to collect and re-sell consumers’ names and contact information. EarthLink’s complaint charges the defendants with violating the CAN-SPAM Act along with other federal and state statutes.

— Yahoo!: Filed a lawsuit against East Coast Exotics Entertainment Group, Inc. and Epoth LLC for disguising their identity, designing messages to circumvent spam filters, and using sexually-explicit subject lines to send unsolicited sexually-oriented spam e-mail messages. Violations were filed under the CAN-SPAM Act, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, & California Computer Crime Statute and the civil conspiracy law.