The judge's decision to hand down a temporary restraining order is part of an ongoing feud between two companies at absolute ends of the email spam spectrum: one that makes a living sending out floods of unsolicited email marketing material, and another that makes money combating those floods of annoying spam.
Richter's case against SpamCop and parent company IronPort began last month when the email marketer became fed up with SpamCop's persistent interference with his marketing contracts and business tactics. Richter claimed that SpamCop defamed his company and damaged potential future earnings.
SpamCop is a web-based service that reports incidents of so-called spamming to Internet service providers. SpamCop analyzes the headers of email spam samples sent by computer users, deletes the email addresses of those who file the complaints, and then sends emails to the abuse desks of all ISPs tracked in the header information.
SpamCop eventually pressures ISPs to terminate their relationships with certain spammers that continuously get identified by the system. However, Richter claims his service provides an opt-in option for email recipients and that his company has been wrongly accused of being a spammer.
According to an attorney close to the case, SpamCop has been filing reports against OptInRealBig since 2003.
The judge's ruling ordered SpamCop to stop reporting complaints about OptinRealBig.com to ISPs. The order will last until May 20 after which time the two companies will meet again in a courtroom to settle the landmark lawsuit that some analysts are saying could set a precedent for future lawsuits between email marketers and anti-spam security companies.
Richter, nicknamed the Spam King, originally filed a preliminary and permanent injunction against SpamCop for making what he claims were slanderous or libelous statements about OptinRealBig.com. Richter is also seeking $150,000 in damages.
In the meantime, Richter is the subject of a $20 million spam lawsuit filed in December 2003 by Microsoft and the New York Attorney General for allegedly sending more than 250,000 million spam emails. Microsoft and AG Eliot Spitzer are accusing Richter and his company of being part of a conspiracy to hijack computers and use them to send billions of illegal and deceptive spam messages.
Microsoft and Spitzer also have pending lawsuits against six other alleged spam companies, among them Delta7 Communications, Boxplay5.com, Webmed-RX.com, Safemed-RX.com, Teslianet, and Nutriworx.
None of the lawsuits filed by Microsoft and Spitzer are tied to anti-spam law Can-Spam and instead are filed under existing anti-fraud statutes.