State Sues Man Under Anti-Spam Law

The Washington attorney general's office has sued a Houston man under its anti-spam law on charges of sending unsolicited commercial e-mails to promote pornographic Web sites and the prescription drug Viagra.

Ernesto Haberli, who also went by Eduardo Warren, sent e-mails with deceptive subject lines and tried to conceal his identity in the header, in violation of the state's anti-spam statute, the attorney general's office said. The law prohibits sending deceptive unsolicited commercial e-mail to Washington residents.

According to the charges, the e-mails bore subject lines with headers such as “board meeting 3ish.” The e-mails contained material marketing pornography and Viagra, the attorney general's office said.

Investigators are uncertain how many e-mails were sent but know that some went to faculty and students with University of Washington e-mail addresses, the attorney general's office said. The law applies only when the sender knows or has reason to know that the recipient lives in Washington.

The attorney general's office seeks $2,000 in civil penalties per violation for Haberli.

In September, a Washington state judge sided with the attorney general's office in its suit against an Oregon man under the anti-spam law. In a pre-trial summary judgment against Jason Heckel, who used e-mail to market his $40 booklet “How to Profit from the Internet,” the judge ruled that subject lines such as “Did I get the right e-mail address?” and “For your review — HANDS OFF!” violated the law.

The ruling led some direct marketers to worry that standard teaser copy used in direct mail could be threatened.

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