AOL wins spam cases, files more

A spammer who advertises apricot seeds as a cure for cancer is on the next list of AOL targets.

America Online Inc. said Monday it has won three more cases against junk e-mailers, doubling the number of spam cases the online service has successfully concluded.

The Dulles, Va.-based company also filed nine new lawsuits in five states in a move it hopes will discourage advertisers from distributing fraudulent or pornographic commercials to AOL's customers.

One of the new defendants, for example, advertised a miracle cancer cure -- which turns out to be apricot seeds. "This is a ... victory for AOL and moreover for its members, as far as our ability to protect them from junk e-mail," said company spokesman Rich D'Amato. "The new cases represent an expansion of our strategy of taking it to the spammers."

AOL said one of the concluded cases set a legal precedent in the use of computer-fraud laws, which the company believes will strengthen its hand in future cases.

America Online, the world's largest online service, also has planet-sized problems with spammers, who see the company's 14-million-plus members as a captive advertising audience for anything from porn sites to herbal remedies to bait shops.

Spam continues
Three previous lawsuits have resulted in court orders preventing the spammers from e-mailing AOL users, but the cases seem to have done little to prevent spammers from taking advantage of one of the world's cheapest forms of advertising.

Each of the victories, against LCGM Inc. of Madison Heights, Mich., Prime Data Systems of Bowling Green, Ky., and IMS of Knoxville, Tenn., resulted in punitive damages being awarded to AOL, and in court orders preventing the defendants from sending e-mails to AOL users.

In the LCGM case, the court also ruled that the spammer, by cheating AOL's spam filtering systems, had committed fraud. AOL says this is the first case in which state and federal computer-fraud laws have been applied to a spammer.

"These legal victories underscore the court's recognition that junk e-mail damages both our members and AOL,'' said Randall Boe, AOL's Associate General Counsel, in a statement.

The cases
In Virginia courts, AOL filed suit against Power Promo and Forrest Dayton of Marietta, Ga. for spamming and for distributing spamming software; and against computer hardware dealer of Reston, Va., for spamming.

In California courts, AOL sued "Virtual Girlfriend'' Spammer, in Sunland and Tujunga, Calif., for fraud; Michael Persaud, et. al., of San Diego, for spamming and for fraudulently using the trademark; and against USA Home Employment in Studio City, Calif., for advertising a get-rich-quick scheme.

In Iowa, the company sued National Health Care Discounts, Inc. of Sioux City, Iowa, for misleading advertisements.

In Florida, AOL sued Orange County, Fla.'s Global Marketing Solutions, Inc. for fraudulent advertising and fraudulently circumventing spam filters; and First Class Advertising of Valusia and Orange County, Fla., for spamming and circumventing spam filters.

And in New York, the service filed suit against The Christian Brothers in Brooklyn, N.Y., for fraudulently advertising apricot seeds as a cancer cure.

More details to follow.


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