Fax.com President Calls $2.2 Trillion Lawsuit 'Absurd'

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Fax.com, responding to a $2.2 trillion class-action lawsuit filed last week by an Internet entrepreneur who accused the company of sending unsolicited commercial faxes, said its business is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.


In a statement Friday, Fax.com president Kevin Katz called the lawsuit by Infoseek search engine co-founder Steve Kirsch "unfounded and absurd." The suit, filed in both federal and California state courts, accuses Fax.com of sending millions of unsolicited commercial faxes in violation of federal law and, according to Kirsch's attorneys, is aimed at putting Fax.com out of business.


Kirsch claimed that his own company, Propel Software, was a target of Fax.com's "war dialing" in May and said Fax.com called every telephone at Propel's headquarters in San Jose, CA, in search of new fax lines. Kirsch also claimed Fax.com had jammed phone lines at hospitals, which he said was evidence that Fax.com's marketing efforts endangered public safety.


"I am dismayed by the inflammatory charges leveled in the suit," Katz said in a statement. "For Kirsch to claim that a fax can 'endanger public safety' is bizarre."


Several California courts have thrown out lawsuits similar to Kirsch's, Katz said. Katz also cited a March decision by a U.S. District Court judge in St. Louis who ruled that a blanket ban on unsolicited fax advertising, without evidence of substantial government interest, violated free-expression rights.


Kirsch has disparaged that ruling, noting that it was made by an uncle of conservative radio talk-show icon Rush Limbaugh and that other U.S. District courts have gone against the decision since. The Missouri attorney general's office is appealing the case.


According to Katz, Kirsch is waging an intimidation campaign against Fax.com's clients, who, along with Fax.com telecommunications provider Cox Business Services, are named in the suit. Many of Fax.com's clients lack access to traditional advertising channels, he said, and fax advertising helps them compete with larger rivals.


Katz said he supports the idea of state and national "do-not-fax" list laws, one of which was proposed earlier this year in California. A toll-free number that consumers can call if they no longer wish to receive ads from Fax.com appears on all the company's faxes, he said.


Fax.com has assisted authorities searching for missing children, Katz said. The company has sent missing-children alerts for several nonprofit agencies and law enforcement for no charge.


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