The Rise Of Anti-Spam Lawsuit Entrepreneurs

from the give-me-spam-so-i-can-sue-you dept

I'll admit that many years ago, when I first heard about people trying to sue spammers for profit, it sounded like a pretty cool idea. No one likes spammers, and being able to sue them and make some money off of it sounds good, right? But it appears that it's becoming a bigger business these days, and in a story about a specific case from one such person, Eric Goldman reasonably questions the tactics of some of these "anti-spam litigation entrepreneurs," noting that they often seek out spam, just to have more to sue over. That seems highly problematic. If they're purposely putting their email address out there just to get spam, with the intention of suing over it, it's difficult to see how they have much of a claim to complain about the spam received. Now, it appears that some judges are starting to fight back against clear profiteers, who are clearly not using the law as a way to fight spam, but just to profit.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 6:59am

    As long as the profits come from the spammers themselves, I see little ethical downside to vigilante justice. You CAN get rich as a lawyer -- some through less honorable means than suing spammers.

    As for "putting your address out there", that's a new spin on the old "should be able to stand naked on a street corner and not subject my body to violation" argument. It doesn't matter if you're dressed sexy at a bar -- no one asks for the crime.

     

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    NeoConBushSupporters, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 7:44am

    The World Needs Less Advocates!

    Lawyers . . . I hate them soooo much! Hey isnt Hussien Obama a lawyer (as well as his side kick comrade Biden)?


    VOTE McCain 2008 - He and Palin could even get into Law School!

     

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      USA citizen, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 8:52am

      aside from the odd grammar, where are your factiods coming from?

      aside from the odd grammar, where are your factiods coming from?

       

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    john, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 7:45am

    This will be too bad for spammers in a law controlled country. Spammers can outsource their job to other lawless countries and be safe. http://www.colorofcredit.com

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 7:46am

    I never understood why spam was such a big deal. it is no different than all the junk mail you can get by giving out your address in real life and in fact is even less of a hassle with how well most spam filters work. I have received 925 pieces of spam in the past 30 days and none of it got into my inbox; indeed, I haven't had a piece of spam end up in my inbox or had a non-spam email marked as spam for years.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 9:17am

      Re: No Big Deal

      My spam filters often capture legitimate email, so I have to browse the spam to prevent loss. I get 6000 spam a day, and no I didn't put my eddress out there to lure the spammers.
      I hate the time it takes to scan it, I am angry that I have to pay for the bandwidth for this to arrive on my servers, and I can't take a vacation without having someone clear the spam out or it will use my quota and block the messages I really do want to get.
      If you add the backscatter from having a domain spoofed, the burden is even more significant and adds noticeably to the dollar cost of hosting.
      The good feature of spam coming by snail mail is that I don't have to pay to receive it--the sender pays.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 2:51pm

        Re: Re: No Big Deal

        but you don't pay to receive the spam. you pay for internet access at a certain speed, unless you signed up with a shitty you are in a contract that gives you the right to stay connected 24/7 365 days a year excepting reasonable downtime for maintenance. Whether or not you receive any spam you pay the same amount for your internet connection.

        if you are getting pieces of mail mislabeled as spam and vice versa it seems to me that there is a market for teaching people how to create effective spam filters.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 11:38am

      Re:

      If you never understood, let me try to make this easy and clear enough for you to understand, even if not agree:

      Junkmail is funded by the sender through postage
      Spam is "funded" by the victim through bandwidth and account storage constraints

      Junkmail content is normally legitimate business offers
      Spam content is seldom legitimate, legal or ethical - and more often than not, offensive

      Junkmail uses CO2 resources and kills real trees (please recycle!)
      Spam may be more eco-friendly, but doesn't really negate the majority of the other items on this list

      Both junkmail and spam devalue the method of delivery, because it takes so much time and effort to weed out what we care about and what is worthless trash (according to each recipient).


      I'm happy your e-mail filters work so well FOR YOU, but then this really isn't about you or any other individual's experience, is it? Many have had and reported different experiences with false-positives and false-negatives and some of us worry about others beyond our limited personal viewpoints.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 3:11pm

        Re: Re:

        Junkmail is funded by the sender through postage
        Spam is "funded" by the victim through bandwidth and account storage constraints


        I think that is a straw-man argument, saying you have bandwidth or storage limitations is like saying if you get enough junk mail it won't fit in your mailbox.

        additionally pretty much every mail server out there does not count spam towards the mailbox limit and as mailboxes are frequently giving out storage space in the gigabytes a few more kilobytes (or megabytes, 1000 emails without pictures or attachments will only be about a meg or so) makes almost no impact on the storage limit.

        You also pay the same amount whether you receive spam or not, you pay a flat monthly fee for your internet unless you have a terrible service provider (in which case, why are you still with them?) so you can't say it costs you anything to receive them, if you specifically are with a shitty ISP that charges by the byte then it definitely doesn't hold true for the rest of the world.

        Junkmail content is normally legitimate business offers
        Spam content is seldom legitimate, legal or ethical - and more often than not, offensive


        I can understand this, but it seems to me that the spammers should be sued not for spamming, but for false advertising, or other already existing laws that prohibit scams. however, the sending of bulk emails in and of themselves seems to be a non-issue to me.

        Both junkmail and spam devalue the method of delivery, because it takes so much time and effort to weed out what we care about and what is worthless trash (according to each recipient).

        I'm happy your e-mail filters work so well FOR YOU, but then this really isn't about you or any other individual's experience, is it? Many have had and reported different experiences with false-positives and false-negatives and some of us worry about others beyond our limited personal viewpoints.


        I also dislike this argument, if someone can't set up really good spam filters, then isn't that an indication that there is a hole for a new service to fill? email addresses that rely on their reputation for not letting any spam through, the computer tutors now also teach how to set up spam filters as part of the email training course, and so on.

        while this is again my personal experience most of my friends never have to check their spam folders because they have their filters set up as well as mine are. none of the professionals (of computer science, so programming, pc maintenance&repair, database, networking, etc..) I know have a problem. that seems to only reinforce in my mind that it is a matter of training, not an impossible thing attainable to only a scant few.

        I am, however, willing to leave my argument at that and agree to disagree.

         

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    Dave, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 7:57am

    Go get 'em!

    Seriously? Who invited the Bush lover idiot? This is an article about spam, not a political blog.

    Anyways, I think it's awesome that they are seeking out spammers to sue. It's not much different than dressing a cop up as a hooker and busting Johns, or having a cop pretend to be an underage girl online to catch predators.

    It's good to know somebody is actively pursuing the people that are screwing up the internet!

     

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    James, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 9:02am

    Death to Spammers!

    Sue them, kill them.. who cares, they have completely ruined email, anyone who thinks spam isn't a big deal either hasn't received any or is a spammer themselves.

     

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    AlphaCentauri, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 2:08pm

    "If they're purposely putting their email address out there just to get spam, with the intention of suing over it, it's difficult to see how they have much of a claim to complain about the spam received."

    I also get hundreds of spams a day, and no, I didn't "put my email address out there" on purpose. It was harvested by bots scanning the contact information I am required to provide for domain name registrations of websites.

    The CAN-SPAM act permits quite a bit of activity the rest of us consider spamming, and it can be hard to show they're violating the requirements it does impose. For instance it's difficult to prove that a spammer is violating the rule that he must unsubscribe your address, since even spammers that include contact information don't keep using the same name long enough for spam filters to learn it.

    On the other hand, one can absolutely prove that the spammer is violating the rule against harvesting emails with bots. Rather than "put your email address out there," you conceal it as cleverly as possible. You put it where no human can find it, but in a place where a bot will grab it without knowing the difference. When mail comes to this "spamtrap" address, it is 100% certain to be in violation of CAN-SPAM.

    So while I can't prove any claims against the faux-compliant spam sent to my other addresses, receiving spam to a spamtrap allows me to conclusively demonstrate how the same spammers are violating CAN-SPAM by mailing to my other addresses. It isn't entrapment; it is documenting the method in which emails have been harvested.

     

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    John, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 2:57pm

    This topic is about spam

    Like poster #5 mentioned, I too am getting sick of political comments when they're not appropriate. This is a blog and discussion about tech related news. If the person wants to talk politics and wants to tell people who to vote for, then go to a political site.

    Or is he making a point about how easy it is to post spam messages into a discussion? ;)

    Anyway, while I think suing spammers is a good idea, I think we're back to the issues of actually finding the spammer to sue and then trying to collect from the spammer. And even if the spammer has to pay up, what will the fine be, 1% of his annual income? Wow, that'll certainly put a stop to it.

    Instead, why not sue the companies advertised in the spam e-mails. It's probably a lot easier to sue the "canadian pharmacy" (which may even have a physical address) instead of the spammer who may operating out of China.
    And don't fall for the old excuse of "we didn't know that our affiliate was sending spam" nonsense. If the spammer can't be held responsible, then we should go after the people hiring the spammers.

     

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    Clueby4, Oct 14th, 2008 @ 6:33pm

    Ironic?

    Doest anyone else find ironic that the "what's the big deal" flapping feeb is doing so anonymously.

    What you don't mind spam but the potential unsolicited emails received due to obtuse posting are a cause for concern.

    Why couldn't the KIDS Act have included requiring those employed in marketing and/or advertising along with the sex offenders.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2008 @ 7:19am

      Re: Ironic?

      I post anonymously because I prefer to maintain a very controlled online image of myself. posting as a nickname is little different than posting as anonymous, there is very little to tie any one person to a pseudonym.

      as to not posting my email specifically, I can easily imagine people sending me a bunch of emails that isn't spam, but would still be annoying as hell, and would probably get past my filters. even if they wouldn't get past my filters it makes no sense to essentially ask for someone to try and flood your email account. just because you know how to take a punch do you go around asking random strangers to take their best shot at you?

      there is quite a bit of hypocrisy complaining about someone posting anonymously and lack of email when you don't use your real name and post your email address for all to see. I also question the strength any argument if you have to resort to character attacks instead of refuting the points I have made.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 12:33am

        Re: Re: Ironic?

        Point taken on being anonymous. However I do disagree with everyone's opinion of ISP choice. Some countries are limited in ISPs. My own country has bandwidth limitations in every package. Not every country is advanced and it is unfair to suggest we leave our country. As such spam, as well as being annoying especially in SMS situations where we have to SMS 'stop' to pay to be opted out when we never opted in, is costly and or time consuming for enough people to make it worth concern. Spam and junkmail should have strict laws which must be followed, and I see no harm in the profit benefit where our needs for these stricter laws are not met. 'Thowing' your email out without giving consent for spam and or junkmail is as others have said, no more harmless than a woman choosing to dress in less.

         

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    mlgreen8753, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 6:25pm

    No Excuse For Spamming

    With cheap and free advertising options there's no excuse for spamming. You can invest the same amount of time engaging in legitimate advertising activities like submitting videos to Adwido or writing articles and yield the same results ethically.

     

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