Serial Anti-Spam Lawsuit Filer Loses Appeal... And His Possessions

from the time-to-get-a-job dept

Back when CAN SPAM was passed, one of the (many) parts that annoyed anti-spam fighters was that the law was quite clearly limited in who could bring lawsuits. It was basically designed so that only the government or ISPs could bring lawsuits -- not individuals. This was done on purpose, as lots of marketing companies freaked out that they'd end up dealing with constant spam lawsuits from people upset about receiving their marketing messages. However, some anti-spammers worked on ways to get around this by setting themselves up as "ISPs," though only for the purpose of trying to sue spammers. This strategy backfired. A couple of years ago, one of the most fervent supporters of using this trick (his only "job" was filing these lawsuits against spammers) lost his case, and the court even told him to pay $110k to the firm he had sued.

He appealed, and the appeals court came down even harder on the guy for clearly abusing the law, pointing out that he was clearly a professional litigant, and not someone running a real ISP. But, perhaps even more fascinating is that the guy, James Gordon, didn't just lose the lawsuit, it appears he lost most of his possessions as well. Remember that ruling telling him to pay the $110k to Virtumundo? He refused. The company sent the debt to a collections agency, but told Gordon they'd call off the collections agency if he dropped the appeal. Gordon didn't:
When Virtumundo's collections lawyer showed up at Gordon's house with a moving van and a sheriff, Virtumundo again offered to stop its pursuit of Gordon's assets if he would drop his appeal, and he refused again, according to Newman.

Virtumundo's collections agency then cleared out Gordon's house, according to Newman.

He added that after seizing the contents of Gordon's home, Virtumundo offered to return Gordon's belongings if he would drop his appeal and again, Gordon refused.
As much as I thank anti-spam activists for trying to stomp out spam, that doesn't mean they get to ignore what the law allows, and set up what was effectively a professional anti-spam litigation service.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Aug 24th, 2009 @ 10:29am

    Yeah, but...

    As odious as he is, I don't see his treatment being anything like that against corporate institutions that do the same thing.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 10:48am

    Learn something new every day...

    I thought Virtumundo was a type of adware!

     

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  3.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 24th, 2009 @ 11:02am

    Mmmm

    "Serial Anti-Spam"

    Mmmm, spam cereal...sounds like southern cuisine...

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 11:03am

    Yet, when Big Entertainment does it, it's just fine - in fact, ENCOURAGED by congress and the courts!

     

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  5.  
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    BullJustin (profile), Aug 24th, 2009 @ 11:04am

    Re: Mmmm

    It's anti-spam cereal, so northern cuisine

     

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  6.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Aug 24th, 2009 @ 11:08am

    "told Gordon they'd call off the collections agency if he dropped the appeal"

    I can't really feel sorry for the guy, even though I support his cause 100%.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 11:10am

    How is this really any different than copyright trolls? It seems that the law doesn't get applied evenly.

     

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  8.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 24th, 2009 @ 11:15am

    Re: Re: Mmmm

    "It's anti-spam cereal, so northern cuisine"

    Well, actually Hormel is based in Minnesota, I believe. They produce a ton of spam...

     

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  9.  
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    william (profile), Aug 24th, 2009 @ 11:30am

    is it blackmailing to threaten to take all your possessions unless you drop the lawsuit?

    According to the law, they have the right to take all his stuff and sell them for money. If it stays at that I have no problem. My problem is the company's lawyer repeatingly trying to use this as leverage to stop the guy's appeal.

    I admit I don't know if this has legal basis, but it just sounds wrong and feels like blackmailing.

     

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  10.  
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    reboog711 (profile), Aug 24th, 2009 @ 11:51am

    When are patent trolls going to be treated the same way that that this guy was?

    I see some similarities in that they are professional litigants who are abusing the law.

     

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  11.  
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    Mechwarrior, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 12:14pm

    This guy was clearly breaking the law. What happened to him is entirely his responsibility. Or is being responsible for ones actions only applicable to people you hate?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 12:50pm

    Re:

    While I hate spammers as much as the next guy, I wouldn't call this blackmail.

    Remember, not only did he start this mess, he already lost the case, and his appeal was denied.

    Virtumundo's basically saying "You lost the case and the court says you owe us money. But we'll forget this whole thing if you stop being a pest."

     

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  13.  
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    Skuck the Fank, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 1:04pm

    The takeaway from this?

    Go ahead and do this. If the government wants to protect pieces of shit like Virtumundo, then we have to do what we have to do.

    But...

    Don't be an idiot. If you are going to pose as an ISP, don't "pose"... *BECOME* a legitimate ISP. It really doesn't take much to provide internet access to a few people (insiders sympathetic to the cause?) Once you have a legitimate business, retain a good lawyer for the inevitable challenge to your legitimacy, and have your paperwork in order. Be ready and able to prove that you are a legitimate business. They can't invalidate you because you aren't huge.

    Now...Rip Virtumundo a new asshole.

    By the way, Virtumundo is a skank.

     

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  14.  
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    PRMan, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 1:10pm

    Re:

    "I admit I don't know if this has legal basis, but it just sounds wrong and feels like blackmailing."

    It seems like "settling out of court" to me. This kind of thing happens all the time and I am surprised that Virtumundo was being so kind to him to make all these offers.

     

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  15.  
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    RD, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 1:14pm

    Wha??

    Wait, what country did this happen in again? Because as I understand it in the USA, you arent allowed to destitute someone and take ALL their possessions just to satisfy a debt (ANY debt, let alone a judgement). Except for the IRS of course, they can F you any way they want. But in private matters like this, the constitution doesnt allow the wholesale transfer of private property from one party to another to satisfy debt. You might put a lien on property and the like, but you cant just take EVERYTHING.

    And just for the record, the people who run Virtumonde (the virus people, right?) need to be taken out and put down like a rabid dog. IF this guy can get his entire life ripped from him for this, then by the same token the Virtumonde people need to be removed from the planet permanently for the scumbag, vile, evil crap they have foisted onto people.

     

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  16.  
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    interval, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 1:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Mmmm

    DH: "Blahbady blah dah blah blah..."

    Oh dh, your funnier than finding Lenny Bruce dead with his works still stuck in his groin.

     

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  17.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Aug 24th, 2009 @ 1:23pm

    Re:

    How is this really any different than copyright trolls? It seems that the law doesn't get applied evenly.
    Very sad that it doesn't. As much as I like what this guy stood for, it is nice to see a lawyer get beat down for abusing the system.
    You want disparities in the system, just look at rich people breaking laws compared to people like Ms Thomas. Who gets the example made of them? Right, not the rich.

     

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  18.  
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    Nicholas Overstreet (profile), Aug 24th, 2009 @ 3:01pm

    Some times you just have to...

    Sounds like he didn't know when to call it quits

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 3:42pm

    Re:

    Copyright trolls don't get stamped down on by the law this way?

     

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  20.  
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    ErRoNeUs, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 4:17pm

    Re:

    Clearly breaking the law? Care to state which law he was breaking? There are all sorts of examples of accepted "trolling" including copyright, patent and trademark trolling. I'm not saying it doesn't happen that these other types of trolls do not lose their cases because they are trolls, but I am saying that I haven't heard of that happening before.

     

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  21.  
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    ErRoNeUs, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 4:26pm

    Re: Some times you just have to...

    This guy is displaying courage... large quantities of courage. There were people saying the same things about the people who started the U.S. revolutionary war. There are lots of heroes who fought for their causes and literally died in the struggle. This guys is battling against some of the worst the internet has to offer and people like him are still doing it. Anti-spam activities are constantly being sued by spammers and some lose. It's sad but they are still heroes even when they lose.

     

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  22.  
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    Mechwarrior, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 4:48pm

    Re: Re:

    The letter of the law states that only ISP's and the government can bring CANSPAM lawsuits. This main was neither and actively lied about his status.

    If thats not illegal, then I've got some fresh internets to sell you.

     

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  23.  
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    Mechwarrior, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 4:49pm

    Re: Re: Some times you just have to...

    You just categorized an anti-spam zealot with revolutionary war heroes? Dont be so daft.

     

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  24.  
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    Dan Balsam can blow me, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 6:53pm

    Another Pro Antispammer about to get his....

    Dan Balsam will be next (danhatesspam.com) as he is also a "serial litigator" and peice of sh*t that does nothing but sue people and take things that are not his by lying, cheatng and falsifying infomation. I do not think he wons anything though I heard he lives in his mom's basement.

     

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  25.  
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    An Amorous Cowherd, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 8:19pm

    Virtumundo's collections agency then cleared out Gordon's house

    Clearly, Gordon didn't place the Claymores properly.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 8:30pm

    Re:

    This is an injustice. Justice is a fallacy. A baby girl is murdered we can only have retribution or rehabilitation neither is justice. This just displays that the laws is not enforced as it is written it is enforced charismatically, the litigant annoys the court -- the court shows that it is not to be annoyed. Meanwhile that spammer goes on instally spyware on all of our machine. Martyr's they may be right but they'll bleed to death in the end. Fuck the law.

     

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  27.  
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    Whatever, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 12:17am

    Typical nonjustice from our court system

    Funny, I don't see judges eviscerating bogus DCMA takedown notice filers. And please don't flap about the "good faith belief" intentional flaw built in to that purchased "law"

    CAN-SPAM like most laws is just more theater from our worthless legislators.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 12:24am

    Clarification

    Just for clarification, Virtumundo as a company has nothing to do with the spyware of the same / similar name.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 12:27am

    Re: Clarification

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 4:57am

    Got Can Spam?

    Check the name of the Legal Council for Virtumundo, now check the principle author of the can spam act. Yeapper, same guy.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 5:15am

    Front Towards Enemy

     

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  32.  
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    rox0r, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 6:39am

    professional antispam litigation service?

    Wait. Isn't a professional anti-spam litigation service a good thing for society to have? Isn't that like shutting down doctors because they are an anti-cancer service?

    I don't really understand this ruling. They are admitting to being spammers, so what is the problem?

     

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  33.  
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    David, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 6:44am

    Original ruling difficult to understand...

    Why would the court rule in favor of the other party in the first place? Did the judge sleep through law classes dealing with the "Clean Hands" doctrine? If the spammer was acting illegally (in violation of the CAN SPAM act's provisions) then that should have nullified any and all of their counter claims when they were sued.

    Description of the Clean Hands Doctrine:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unclean_hands

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 11:19am

    Re: Can't feel sorry for this guy

    Because he stood up for himself you can't feel sorry for him? Wow.. that's just.. sad...

     

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  35.  
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    Adam Guerbuez, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 7:49pm

    Thumbs up

    Glad to hear the courts served justice where it was needed and that Gordon was dealt with accordingly. Now he can look for more meaningful work, perhaps once he is done re-furnishing his now empty home ;)

    Thumbs up for Virtumondo cleaning him out. Sends a clear message to the rest of the anti-spam activist community.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2009 @ 1:05pm

    Re: Re: Some times you just have to...

    Are you smoking crack?

     

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  37.  
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    Old Man Dotes (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 4:05pm

    Is it just me?

    Or does anyone else think that the CAN-SPAM Act was written by spammers, for the protection of spammers? Virtumundo is a *well-known* spammer. Seriously. Click the URL link above to see for yourself. Virtumundo *bought* lists of email addresses - which means they make no attempt whatsoever to verify that the addressee *wants* their junk email. http://www.spamhaus.org/rokso/evidence.lasso?rokso_id=ROK6401

     

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  38.  
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    Bill Silverstein, May 6th, 2010 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Another Pro Antispammer about to get his....

    Really? Dan just won in trial against a spammer. What evidence do you have that he is lying cheating or falsifying anything? It is the spammers and their attorneys who do that.

    Are you just another spammer who lost in court to Dan?

     

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  39.  
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    Gordon Southgate, Dec 1st, 2012 @ 12:57am

    SPAM

    The motive is irrelevant, either a professional litigator or anti spammer or a mix of both. This guy put his money on the line for what he believed and lost. He could have won and we would all have been better off for it. We all hate spam. Why should I have to filter out the rubbish in my mailbox, unsubscribe from mailing lists I never subscribed to, block url's and the like. This all takes time, my time, my cost, our time at our expense.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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