New Spam Lawsuits Filed Against Adult Emailers

Jeff Berg
REDMOND, Wash. — Microsoft Corp. filed seven new lawsuits Wednesday against alleged spammers who violated CAN-SPAM’s “brown paper wrapper” rule by sending sexually explicit images in hundreds of thousands of unlabeled emails.

Provisions in both the CAN-SPAM law and Federal Trade Commission regulations require that all mass emails featuring adult content have the words “SEXUALLY-EXPLICIT:” in the subject line and at the beginning of each email.

“Sexually explicit materials and publications for sale in stores are required by law to be covered from view with a brown paper wrapper,” said Nancy Anderson, Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel, in a statement issued Thursday.

“It’s important that consumers are protected online in the same way,” Anderson said.

The seven lawsuits, filed in King County’s Washington State Superior Court against as-yet unnamed defendants, allege that the spammers hijacked computers to route spam messages, failed to include an unsubscribe option and intentionally used misleading subject lines.

“Labeling requirements for spam are important, and the ‘brown paper wrapper’ rule is a particularly important provision,” said Anne P. Mitchell, president of the Institute for Spam and Internet Public Policy. “Not only does requiring the words ‘sexually explicit’ in the subject line and message portion of the email aid spam filters, it also protects consumers from unwittingly having to view content that they may deem offensive and troubling.”

Microsoft also filed another legal action in November against a spammer that was soliciting Korean-language adult-oriented websites. According to the company, it has filed 86 spam-related lawsuits in the United States and 115 world-wide.

Microsoft, along with America Online, Yahoo and EarthLink banded together in recent months to create the Anti-Spam Alliance, a group aimed at taking legal action against spammers. The alliance filed several rounds of spam-related lawsuits in March and October.