*yesmail.com, MAPS Prepare for Legal Brawl

The pending court case between e-mail marketer yesmail.com and fierce anti-spam advocate Mail Abuse Prevention System is eliciting a similar response on both sides — let’s get it on.

Next week, all Internet eyeballs will be focused on the Northern District Court of Illinois when the two parties resume the legal skirmish that has so far resulted in a temporary restraining order, preventing MAPS from placing yesmail on its feared Realtime Blackhole List.

At stake is yesmail’s right to freely determine its own policies for delivering e-mail marketing messages to the members of its lists, without threat of being arbitrarily bounced off or denied access to any of the 20,000-plus parties that subscribe to the RBL.

The hearing was originally scheduled for yesterday, but was postponed for a week, according to Anthony Priore, senior vice president of marketing at yesmail, which has offices in Chicago, New York and Greenwich, CT.

Priore said his company had been in talks with MAPS for several months, in hopes of trying to satisfy its request that all e-mail marketing adopt a double opt-in standard. Those talks broke down, however, when MAPS began to demand that the e-mail company change its policies instantly or else face banishment to the RBL, Priore said.

“When it started to escalate to a potential revenue problem then we said ‘Enough is enough. These are bullying tactics now,'” he explained. “We’re going to defend our business.”

MAPS, Redwood City, CA, did not immediately return phone messages requesting comment. On its Web site, the organization issued the following statement: “At this time we can only confirm that yesmail.com has indeed filed a lawsuit against MAPS and a temporary restraining order has been issued.”

yesmail has petitioned the court for a permanent restraining order against MAPS, in addition to compensatory and punitive damages and legal fees. MAPS, which offers visitors to its Web site a guide on how to sue the group, has also said it welcomes the chance to present its case before a legal authority. In an interview earlier this year, Nick Nicholas, MAPS executive director, said he believed the group could successfully argue the legality of its practices.

Watching with intense, partisan interest is an e-mail marketing industry that is still deciding on how best to balance the possibilities of electronic marketing with the responsibilities of consumer privacy. To some, yesmail’s legal action against MAPS — a firm that has placed many marketers on its RBL — comes not a minute too soon.

“I am glad to see somebody stand up and fight those guys,” said Drew May, a business unit leader in Acxiom’s eProducts division. “They have the ability to shut a business down without any due process.”

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