First Anti-Spam Suit Filed in Washington State

Seattle-based attorney Brady Johnson filed Washington State’s first “anti-spam” lawsuit against WorldTouch Network Inc. in Los Angeles and the company’s owner, Christopher Lee Knight.

WorldTouch Network allegedly sells Bull’s Eye Gold, a program designed to collect email addresses and generate spam, usually unsolicited sales-related email messages.

Washington’s new anti-spam statute outlaws commercial email that contains false routing information about how it moved across the Internet, or misleading information in its subject line. According to Johnson, most spam falls into those categories. He said he believes WorldTouch Network’s products do too.

“WorldTouch Network advertises Bull’s Eye Gold by repeatedly sending unsolicited email advertisements that extol the program’s virtues,” he said. “They use spam to promote spam.”

Johnson represents the owner and three editors of TidBiTS, an electronic newsletter for Mac users with a circulation of 150,000. The plaintiffs received nearly 100 identical copies of the Bull’s Eye Gold advertisement since June 11, the day Washington’s anti-spam law went into effect.

According to TidBITS owner Adam Engst, WorldTouch uses randomly generated bogus return addresses that claim to originate from large Internet service providers run by IBM, MCI, Sprint, or AT&T. In reality, the spam is routed through servers in Europe. In most cases, the spam contains no actual subject line in the message header; instead it includes one in the message body where email programs don’t recognize it and thus won’t display it in a mailbox window.

Johnson said he is seeking an injunction or court order that will force Knight to stop spamming Washington State residents. In addition, he seeks statutory damages of $500 per violation for each individual plaintiff and $1,000 per violation for Engst. Total damages approach $100,000. There was no immediate word from WorldTouch.

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