educational

XBiz News: 08-28-03

Stephen Yagielowicz

This installment of the XBiz Industry News takes a look at the results of a recent obscenity conviction, examines the renewed interest in an ’adults only’ TLD, and discovers how Amazon is fighting spammers who spoof their e-mail’s return addresses…

Convicted for Obscenity
As part of their guilty plea, the website formerly known as "www.girlspooping.com" has been forfeited to the United States Government by its former owners and operators, who were prosecuted for violations of federal obscenity laws; including the mailing of obscene matters, and conspiracy to use the Internet for the purposes of the sale and distribution of obscene material.

Michael J. and Sharon E. Corbett, of Lewisburg, West Virginia, and Joseph Tanner and Randall Rogers, of Quitman, Georgia, were indicted by a federal grand jury on April 9, 2003, and charged with three counts of mailing obscene materials in violation of Title 18, USC Section 1461, and one count of conspiracy to mail obscene materials, and conspiracy to use the Internet for the purpose of sale and distribution of obscene material, in violation of Title 18, USC Section 371.

An investigation conducted by Postal Inspector Thomas Svitek revealed that the Corbetts, through their Website, offered for sale a total of 53 videotapes and DVDs depicting graphic and sexually explicit scenes of defecation and urination. Tanner and Rogers, the owners and operators of Tdigital Services Inc., managed and maintained the website with knowledge of its content, and shared in the profit.

The Corbetts each pled guilty to one count of mailing obscene material. Tanner and Rogers each pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to mail obscene material and conspiracy to use the Internet for the purpose of sale and distribution of obscene material. Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Additionally, the Corbetts have forfeited $15,010 seized from their bank accounts, the domain name associated with their website, and all obscene materials and equipment used to produce or manufacture obscene materials. In addition, the Corbetts have agreed to pay the United States $60,000 in lieu of forfeiting their home which was used in the sale of obscene materials. Joseph Tanner forfeited $80,000 and all obscene materials and equipment used to produce obscene materials.

XXX TLD Reconsidered
With the recent passing of the PROTECT Act and its outlawing of pornographic Websites with “deceptive” domain names, a renewed interest is being shown in a strategy traditionally shunned by the adult industry – the establishment of an ‘adults only’ top level domain (TLD).

The Internet Content Management Registry has applied to ICANN to administer the proposed .xxx directory. Claiming that “This would be a voluntary adult domain registry,” ICM’s president Jason Hendeles stated “The vision here is not to force the adult community to give up dot-com or abandon that space, because that’s not a possible thing…”

Bill Lyon, the Free Speech Coalition's executive director, said “The experience of most of our members is that any attempt to put a fence around adult entertainment tends to lead to more and more restrictions...” While the FSC has traditionally opposed the establishment of (and any forced migration to) an adult oriented TLD, the organization is now reconsidering its stance, and will have its members vote on the issue next month.

Having an ‘adults only’ TLD is not a new idea, with the ICM Registry working to that end since 2000, when ICANN began accepting proposals for new top level domains beyond the established .com, .net and .org extensions more commonly used by Internet marketers. While ICANN did not approve the adoption of any of the proposed adult TLDs, several companies have attempted to circumvent the regulatory body, either by providing private DNS services that allow the .xxx extension to be resolved by a limited number of specially configured Web browsers, or by deception involving the unauthorized ‘pre-registration’ of .sex addresses.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) as well as the US House of Representatives have also supported the creation of a domain specifically for adult sites, but have been more successful in the actual implementation of the .kids domain which is limited to Websites targeting children. The lawsuits, which were filed in the United States and Canada, target so-called “spoofers” who are using recognized brand name businesses as the return e-mail address in their spam as a way to lure unsuspecting customers, hoping to garner trust and sales based upon the credibility of their victim’s brand.

Amazon Sues Over Fake E-Mail
Amazon.com, the Internet’s biggest retailer, wants you to know that they do not offer free cash, human growth hormones, or penis enlargement pills – despite what you might believe after reading a few emails which at first glance appear to have been sent by the company. Most of these bogus offers in fact seem to be the work of eleven spammers now being sued by Amazon in an attempt to end this consumer fraud, and collect millions of dollars in punitive damages…

The lawsuits, which were filed in the United States and Canada, target so-called “spoofers” who are using recognized brand name businesses as the return e-mail address in their spam as a way to lure unsuspecting customers, hoping to garner trust and sales based upon the credibility of their victim’s brand.

Spoofer cyebye.com reached a settlement with Amazon.com and the New York Attorney General's office, paying $10,000 in fines, and being forced to keep records of all future commercial e-mails, in addition to compensating Amazon an undisclosed sum.

According to H. Robert Wientzen, president of the 4,700 member Direct Marketing Association, “This is a kind of Internet fraud... and of course the most well-known or most-trusted companies are likely to be the most often attacked. Legitimate companies who are sending legitimate communications to their customers are discovering that fewer of those are being read. They were erroneously filtered out, or the consumer is just not opening their e-mail.”

Estimating that the majority of unsolicited commercial messages and spoofed e-mails are the work of 200-300 spammers worldwide, the DMA (which supports arrests and criminal charges for spammers), is beginning a new program next month called “Operation Slam Spam,” in an attempt to aid federal investigators and other law enforcement personnel to curb unwanted spam.

Stay tuned for more news here at XBiz.com, The Industry Source ~ Stephen

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