February 28, 2012
The California Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court’s judgment awarding a plaintiff and self-proclaimed anti-spam activist, Dan Balsam, $7,000 in liquidated damages and $82,000 in attorney fees. Balsam brought his action four years ago he received a series of ads to his personal e-mail in-box in 2007. The “from” line in each e-mail named a nonexistent source such as “Christian Dating,” “Your Promotion,” “Bank Wire Transfer Available,” “Dating Generic,” “Paid Survey” or “Join Elite.” None of the advertising e-mails named the defendant, Trancos, Inc., which sent all the messages, and all of them contained fanciful domain names for the addresses from which they were sent. Trancos acknowledged that it registered private domain names in order to make the company’s identity difficult to trace.
In rejecting Trancos argument that the header information in its e-mails to Balsam was not misleading, the Court of Appeal stated, “[t]here is good reason to treat a commercial e-mailer’s deliberate use of untraceable, privately registered domain names to conceal its identity as a falsification or misrepresentation for purposes of the statute.” The Courtexplained:
Judging from Trancos’s Meridian eMail business, such e-mailers send out millions of commercial e-mail offers per month. Each such e-mail sent has the potential to cause harm to the recipient, ranging from mere annoyance or offense to more tangible harms such as inducing the recipient to visit Web sites that place malware or viruses on their computer, defraud them out of money, or facilitate identify theft. Sending millions of such e-mails, as Trancos did, makes harm inevitable.
Whether a consumer or an internet/email marketer, you can contact the author to understand your rights relative to California’s Anti-Spam laws.