America Online Wins Spam Civil Case Against Porn Sites Marketer

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America Online has won a civil lawsuit against a company it accused of sending pornographic spam to its members and potentially could receive damages in the tens of millions of dollars.


The settlement requires Netvision Audiotext Inc., a company that markets pornographic Web sites through its Cyber Entertainment Network and operates affiliate programs, to pay an undisclosed amount in damages and to stop sending spam to AOL's members. AOL sought damages of $10 for each spam message and $25,000 for each day a message was sent.


No one at Netvision Audiotext, Fort Lauderdale, FL, could be reached for comment.


Nicholas Graham, a spokesman for AOL, said Netvision Audiotext did not abide by its own anti-spam policy.


"Legally the lawsuit is important because it establishes liability for an adult Web site, that they are causing spam to be sent or are knowingly in conspiracy with spammers," he told CNET's news.com at the time AOL filed the lawsuit. "This makes them [Netvision Audiotext] negligent in their no-spam policy."


AOL originally filed its lawsuit in August 1999 against 100 Doe defendants, alleging the transmission of spam to its members. In December 2000, AOL amended its complaint to name Netvision Audiotext, its owners, officers, directors, key employees and 29 affiliates. Also included in the amended complaint were 35 John Does.


On Sept. 30, 1999, AOL sent a cease and desist letter to Cyber Entertainment Network.


The lawsuit said that while "a great majority of defendants" did stop sending spam to AOL members, some did not.


Then in April 2001, AOL filed a second amended complaint, incorporating the allegations from the first complaint and adding Cyberzine Publishing and its principal, Lars Mapstead, as a co-defendant with Netvision Audiotext. Cyberzine Publishing, which runs adult Web sites, was an affiliate of Netvision Audiotext's Cyber Entertainment Network.


The lawsuit said that between June 1999 and April 2000, Cyberzine Publishing sent at least 857,000 spam messages to AOL members on behalf of Cyber Entertainment Network. The spam generated 1,714 complaints to AOL's customer service department, the company said.


Netvision Audiotext's Acceptable Use Policy regarding bulk e-mail states that affiliates are prohibited from sending bulk e-mail to recipients it does not have a prior relationship with.


"Should we determine in our sole discretion that you have violated this AUP, be assured that you will be terminated immediately, will be ineligible to sign up for another account, will not be paid for any traffic or subscriptions generated prior to the date of termination; and your registration information may be turned over to complaining parties (including AOL)," the company's policy states.


Cyberzine Publishing said it never sent unsolicited bulk e-mail to AOL members. All of its bulk e-mail transmissions were to opt-in recipients, it said.


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