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ISPs file new lawsuits against spammers

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By Carol Krol

The four major ISPs have made their latest salvos in the ongoing battle to eradicate spam.

America Online on Thursday announced it has filed two new lawsuits in Federal Court in the Eastern District of Virginia, in Alexandria. The announcement was made in conjunction with Microsoft, EarthLink and Yahoo!, which announced lawsuits against spammers in Washington State, Georgia and California courts. The four companies filed the complaints under the auspices of the Anti-Spam Alliance, which they founded in April 2003.

The ISPs said a coordinated effort is important and strengthens their cause. "I think that by filing lawsuits in conjunction with the Anti-Spam Alliance partners, we’re furthering the industry’s commitment to protecting consumers against spam by taking legal action against egregious spammers," said Mary Osako, senior director of communications at Yahoo! "We are continuously working with our industry partners on multiple fronts, including legal, technological and consumer awareness efforts."

One of AOL’s lawsuits, against twenty "John Does," is noteworthy as the very first lawsuit targeting so-called SPIM, or unwanted communications through instant messaging tools or chat rooms. The other lawsuit targets a spammer selling controlled substances without prescriptions.

AOL is alleging violations of the CAN-SPAM law, the Virginia anti-spam law and state common law. AOL said the lawsuits are based on more than 2 million complaints from members globally and on hundreds of millions of spam e-mails. The complaints seek injunctions to stop the unsolicited messages; statutory damages totaling millions of dollars; and asset forfeiture.

"These lawsuits demonstrate that AOL’s assault on spammers on behalf of our members continues unabated," said Randall Boe, exec VP and general counsel of AOL, in a statement. "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,"

Microsoft filed three lawsuits alleging defendants spoofed the domains of all four ISPs and used open proxies to route the e-mails. The defendants allegedly sent millions of e-mails soliciting herbal supplements, mortgage services and "get-rich-quick schemes," in violation of the CAN-SPAM federal law, according to Microsoft.

EarthLink filed a lawsuit against several "John Doe" defendants it charges with sending deceptive e-mails about prescription drugs and low mortgage or loan rates. The complaint charges the defendants with violating CAN-SPAM along with federal and state statutes.

Yahoo! filed a lawsuit against East Coast Exotics Entertainment Group and Epoth LLC for disguising their identities and using sexually explicit subject lines to send sexually oriented e-mail. Violations were filed under CAN-SPAM, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the California Computer Crime Statute and the civil conspiracy law.

This is the second time the companies have banded together. In March, the Alliance collaborated to file its first lawsuits against spammers, alleging violations under the CAN-SPAM law.

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