Verizon Settles With Alleged Spammer

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A marketer infamous in anti-spam circles has been barred from sending unsolicited bulk commercial e-mail to Verizon Online's customers, ending one of the Internet's more closely watched lawsuits.


Moreover, Alan Ralsky, who operates Additional Benefits LLC, West Bloomfield Township, MI, agreed to pay an undisclosed amount of cash to Verizon Online under a settlement the two reached this week.


Verizon sued Ralsky and Additional Benefits in March 2001, claiming that Additional Benefits paralyzed Verizon's network with spam pitching diet pills, online gambling, credit repair tools, new car buying services, computer programs and home-based business opportunities.


When the suit was filed in federal court in Virginia, Ralsky lawyer Robert S. Harrison, Bloomfield Hills, MI, reportedly told The Detroit News that spam is no different than telemarketing and that Ralsky simply was exercising his free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution. Anti-spammers, however, long have argued that unsolicited commercial e-mail devours bandwidth and other resources owned by others and therefore is theft and not a free speech issue.


The settlement "sends a signal to other commercial e-mailers that they should think twice before spamming Verizon Online," Verizon attorney Thomas M. Dailey said in a statement.


One of the Internet's most infamous commercial e-mail marketers, Ralsky has been vilified repeatedly in online discussion groups under posts with titles like, "Crap from Ralsky."


He also is listed repeatedly on anti-spam site Spamhaus.org, which maintains a list of Internet protocol, or IP, addresses that are suspected sources of spam. Internet service providers and e-mail administrators can use these lists to filter incoming e-mail.


Anti-spammers have watched the Verizon/Ralsky suit, hoping it would set a precedent for other companies that want to take legal action against spammers.


Ralsky's lawyer did not return a call for comment. Ralsky reportedly has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to continue e-mail marketing.


Anti-spammers following the case had lukewarm reactions to the settlement. "Ralsky just got wrist-slapped," said one participant in Internet anti-spam discussion group NANAE.


"As you probably know, settled lawsuits set no legal precedent. Still, it's good news," said another.


The settlement follows two recent court victories for anti-spammers, however.


An Australian court Oct. 14 dismissed direct marketer T3 Direct's lawsuit against anti-spammer Joseph John McNicol. T3 alleged that McNicol posted unfounded complaints about T3, resulting in disruption of its business by getting its servers listed on spam blacklisting site Spam Early Warning System, or SPEWS. The Perth court ruled that McNicol's complaints could not be unfounded since T3 admitted to spamming in an affidavit.


Previously, a Washington state court declared a summary judgment against Jason Heckel, Salem, OR, finding that he violated the state's anti-spam law. The King County Superior Court judge ruled Sept. 13 that an upcoming civil trial would not be needed because there were no disputed facts and that the state proved its case.


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