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America Online

AOL Sues Five Spam Companies 256

sugapablo writes "AOL has filed lawsuits against five spamming companies, seeking damages in the millions for unwanted email. As the AP reports, AOL hasn't actually figured out who all the defendants are though, filing the lawuits against some "John Does" and attempting to "subpoena service providers and others to try to track down the spammers"."
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AOL Sues Five Spam Companies

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  • by wiggys ( 621350 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:17AM (#5734762)
    So can I sue AOL for spamming me with all those frigging CDs?
    • by Andy Tanenbaum ( 655028 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:31AM (#5734831) Journal
      No joke. At least those damn AOL floppies could be overwritten and put to use. AOL could have the decency to spam with CD-RW discs.
      • Haven't you ever put an AOL CD in the microwave? I get as many of those CDs as I can just for that purpose.
      • A lot of my DvD cases are ex-aol boxes.
      • not funny at all, think from an AOL marketing person's point of view - if they sent out CD-RWs, people wouldn't just bin them, they'd keep them and every tme they reused them, they see the AOL logo. Over and over again, instead of the current system where they see it once - on its way to the bin.

        Someone should point this out to AOL's marketing dept. (just don't tell them you can slap a blank label over the top, ok).

        And it'd be more environmentally friendly.

        I love it when a plan comes together!
    • by island_earth ( 468577 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:40AM (#5734886)

      So can I sue AOL for spamming me with all those frigging CDs?

      That depends. Does AOL make you pay shipping and handling for those CDs? No? Then it's not spam.

      Direct marketing (i.e., junk mail, paid by the sender) may be odious, but it's a different issue from spam (essentially free to the sender, burden to pay on the rest of us, including AOL). AOL is not really being hypocritical by fighting one and using the other, no matter how funny it may seem to claim otherwise.

      • It takes time for me to read through my mail, and time is money - especially if you get paid on results and not on hours spent. Of course it doesn't take me long to sift through mail discarding all the AOL CD's, but there is still a cost. It also costs to have them carted away once they are in the trash.

        I'll stick with the more accepted definition of spam - direct mailings which you have not asked to receive. There are plenty of other more acceptable ways to advertise a product. Marketing droids just n
        • by EasyTarget ( 43516 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:13AM (#5735076) Journal
          And don't forget that your trash disposal is paid for by taxes, and just like spam the individual cost of disposal per item is tiny, but given the overall amount of trash that unsolicited mail generates, this adds up to a significant amount in the long term. The costs of this are spread across the whole community, even those who are lucky enough not to be targeted by advertisers very much still have to pay a share of this disposal 'stealth cost'.

          And since the CD's at least probably end up in a land-fill your great-great grandchildren may still be paying a price (of sorts) in a hundred years.

          Is it just me who thinks this is all screwed up?
        • I agree with the idea that the CDs cost the receiver money. In fact, all junk mail and advertisements do. The end result of anything that gets shipped to my house is wasted money in garbage collection. Certainly one CD doesn't have a significant effect on my garbage. However, when you add up all the groups that send something for which I in no way asked or implied I might want, you have a cost that is incurred by the receiver to get rid of the material that was never requested. I do believe that is the
        • by island_earth ( 468577 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:27AM (#5735163)

          Recall that I never said that junk mail was good; just that it's different enough that AOL can fight spam and send CDs without being hypocrites.

          Another key difference: although you shouldn't have to opt-out of junk mail, you can, and it mostly works. I contact the Direct Marketing Association [dmaconsumers.org] every few years to tell their members to cut it out, and the only junk mail I get for the most part is crap my family actually requests. I haven't seen an AOL CD in years, to be honest.

          Junk mail sucks, and I'd love to see it abolished, but it follows some rules we can work with, if we bother to. Spam is an uncontrolled mess, and needs to be slapped down hard. AOL isn't being hypocritical by doing that.

          • Junk mail sucks, and I'd love to see it abolished

            Junk mail subsidizes the post office. Without it, there probably wouldn't be a post office, or stamps would cost a whole lot more than they do. A post office is only cost effective with a certain threshold of volume. If junk mail didn't exists, it would cost more money to send the same non-junk mail.

            With electronic spam, the more they send, the more it costs the receiver and the casual users of the system.

            The more volume in physical mail, the cheaper i
            • The post office has just changed the valuation of its retirement plans... and in the view of some critics it's now the taxpayers who are subsidizing junk mail. Unlike private companies, the federal government backs the retirement benefits of USPS employees (or at least those hired before 1974).

              The same article discussing this change pointed out that fully 60% of postal mail is now bulk mail, and the proportion continues to grow. First class mail is only 30% and shrinking.
      • But I do have to pay the garbage man based on the amount of garbage I throw away. More garbage==more money I must spend.

        I enjoy this payment scheme since it encourages recycling and more thought on how much stuff we do consume. I hate it because I pay for all the junk mail. That's why I like credit card companies which provide a postage paid envelope so I can send their offerings back to them.
      • That depends. Does AOL make you pay shipping and handling for those CDs? No? Then it's not spam.

        In a sense, we all pay for those CDs. The taxpayer, that is.

        You should read this [msn.com] article. The latest "bailout" of the postal service means that we're going to increase the Federal Deficit and perhaps wind up with a massive pension crisis in a few years, all because Congress can't abide raising rates on bulk mailers like AOL.

    • Well you can use them as costers. Put your drink on them and they make sure the finish on your table stays good.
      • by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <atd7@@@cornell...edu> on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:01AM (#5735009) Homepage
        Great Christmas tree decorations. mmm shiny...

        (Yes, I DO use a few CD sandwiches on the tree each year, they compliment the old family silicon wafers... Which are actually a lot nicer than you'd expect. They were rejects from a testing facility that had a tendency to oxidize the wafers in really colorful patterns. My family started using them just after my parents got married and they were both working in IC process development and didn't have anything else to put on the tree.)
  • Go AOL! (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by 1337_h4x0r ( 643377 )
    I hate AOL and all their users, but damn, this sounds great! Best of luck, AOL!
    • Re:Go AOL! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Cutriss ( 262920 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:57AM (#5734973) Homepage
      I hate AOL and all their users, but damn, this sounds great! Best of luck, AOL!

      That's a rather broad brush that you're painting with. Some people here may be using AOL out of necessity. There are a lot of rural and small-town places I know of around here where no ISPs have POPs other than AOL.
      • Reminds me of the Simpsons

        During arguement at town meeting:

        Who said that!?!?!?!!?!?

        Crowd reveals one little guy standing alone

        Little guy in same voice as before: He did. Get him boys!

        You cannot defend AOL!!! Or you are one of them! At least in a cartoon sense.
      • Re:Go AOL! (Score:3, Funny)

        by sootman ( 158191 )
        Nope, not me. I personally hate each and every one of their 22M subscribers. ;-)
    • Yeah, I'm not a big fan of AOL simply because I'm not that kind of Internet user. I don't need handholding, exclusive content or parental controls. But some people do, which is a pretty good market to be in.

      AOL isn't just some ISP though. AOL Time Warner is a corporate leviathan, and according to AOL, the AOL legal department [aol.com] has over 60 lawyers worldwide, presumably plus anything they can pull in from the parent company.

      Spammers.. be afraid. Be very afraid. :)

    • Re:Go AOL! (Score:4, Funny)

      by ryanvm ( 247662 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @10:08AM (#5735447)
      I hate AOL and all their users

      That's okay - I'm sure they still respect you, 1337 h4x0r.
  • hasn't actually figured out who all the defendants are though

    Quickly, mail them the name and the physical location of that one king spammer who recently found himself subscribed on several bulk mailing lists and didn't like it at all.

  • by thogard ( 43403 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:18AM (#5734767) Homepage
    A major spamer just hit one of my test boxes and in the millions of messages that went to my logging server, there are clues into who is behind some of this.
    • by Ironstud ( 134877 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:33AM (#5734846)
      So why was your box not locked down? Aren't you as liable for allow relay to happen on your SMTP server? I had it happen to me right after I installed a new server on my SDSL line -- so I can feel your pain -- I was configuring it when it happen. They really hit fast the smtp server was up for only 5 minutes when a spammer discovered it.
      • it was probably not locked for the same reasons yours wasn't. I've had millions of mails flow through one misconfigured box, and had nothing but derision from fellow admins. It happens, so mate, i feel for you...
      • by thogard ( 43403 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:04AM (#5735027) Homepage
        It wasn't locked down. It was running a stock NT4 (just like some of our customers). However there as a another box sitting between it and the wire that wasn't so eager to send packets off to port 25 on remote servers. The network looked like a connection with something funny going on. The result is that when the box came back on the net (it looks like a typical office machine behind a nated router), it would phone home and then a remote server would connect to the proxy that hte hackers insalled and try to send out messages. The 1st set of addresses go to a specifc set of addresses and then after a short time (if and only if the right address does get sent), then the box would get hit with hundreds of socket connections to its proxy. Once it did that it attempted to deliver a million or so messages in a very samll time. Once I had figured out their game, I could let their test messages through while blocking spam to most of the net. Most of the leaks involved @aol addresses because thats where the test accounts are. I faked accepance of about 5 million messages and flat out rejected millions more. I figure if this system had been up for more than about an hour (and truly open), it could have easly send a billion messages in a week.

        In the local sage mailing list, someone mentioned that he hadn't gotten any spam that day. His email address was in the list list of stuff I rejected several times.
  • Overseas spammers? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theLOUDroom ( 556455 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:19AM (#5734769)
    Wouldn't it be kinda funny if all the John Does turned out to be in foreign countries?

    Back to the drawing board huh guys?
    • by azzy ( 86427 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:21AM (#5734777) Journal
      Wouldn't it be funny if they all turned out to be AOL customers...
    • Wouldn't it be kinda funny if all the John Does trned out to be in foreign countries?

      Why? AOL can sue them there.

      • Er, and accomplish what exactly? Bear in mind that without any asset in US jurisdiction, an overseas spammer won't have anything to confiscate, and need not feel compelled to cooperate. And his host government may not give a damn, since it probably has more important things to look at. The ISP may well not care, given how many overseas ISPs have been spamhauses for months on end, if not years.

        Without either ISP or government cooperation, you won't even know if there's a genuine connection between the sp
  • by Jesus IS the Devil ( 317662 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:20AM (#5734772)
    I know we all like to bash Aohell, but at least they're one ISP that seems to be doing something right these days... fighting spam to its death... unlike 99% of all other ISPs.

    So where is Sanford Wallace these days?
    • by wiggys ( 621350 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:23AM (#5734790)
      Exactly. Suing 5 spammers won't wipe out spam overnight but it should send a strong message to the other spamming bastards out there.
      • by jkrise ( 535370 )
        What if they chose medium sized spammers and left out the big ones on purpose? As many have pointed out, AOL themselves are spammers... recently MS argued AGAINST (!!) tough penalties for spammers; makes you wonder if AOL would sue MS.

        This whole spam thing seems to me a long drawn process of killing the medium sized gorillas and forming an unholy association of the larger ones. To top it all, there's a big spin on spam originating outside the US!
      • by thogard ( 43403 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:14AM (#5735080) Homepage
        Suing the right 5 spamers might make more of a difference than you think.

        I had an NT box cracked and a proxy put on it. (read about the filters in another post) The people who did that were out to spam in a big way. Had my server worked they way they had planned, it could have sent out a billion messages in less than a week. My own email address was in the junk they were attempting to deliver spam to and that consited of 10 messages or so. Considering I'm only getting 50 spams a day, if one spamer can generate 20% of that, I'll be happy with nailing 5 spamers if they are big spamers.

        Of course the person who rooted the NT box can get caught, I've alos go logs where they tried to hack other boxes includeing .gov and .mil machines. Maybe someone from .gov wants to look at the logs.
    • by AKnightCowboy ( 608632 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:36AM (#5734861)
      I know we all like to bash Aohell, but at least they're one ISP that seems to be doing something right these days... fighting spam to its death... unlike 99% of all other ISPs.

      They're just fighting it because it isn't AOL advertising. I had to use AOL to check my e-mail when I was over a friend's house once and holy sheep shit batman. Right when you log on you get assaulted with tons of banner ad spam. AOL just wants an exclusive market for their spam instead of sharing it.

      • They're just fighting it because it isn't AOL advertising. I had to use AOL to check my e-mail when I was over a friend's house once and holy sheep shit batman. Right when you log on you get assaulted with tons of banner ad spam. AOL just wants an exclusive market for their spam instead of sharing it.

        Maybe, but you can turn all that off with one checkbox in the preferences dialog box. If I could turn off spam with one click I know that I would be happy.
      • by McDutchie ( 151611 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:19AM (#5735107) Homepage
        I had to use AOL to check my e-mail when I was over a friend's house once and holy sheep shit batman. Right when you log on you get assaulted with tons of banner ad spam. AOL just wants an exclusive market for their spam instead of sharing it.

        Please keep your terminology straight. Spam is unsolicited bulk e-mail sent postage due. Annoying as they are, banner ads are not spam any more than commercial breaks on television. Not only are they not e-mail but they are actually paid for by the advertisers and you are soliciting them by logging on to the AOL service that includes these ads, i.e. you have the option not to do so, just as you can turn off your TV.

        Comparing spam to banner ads confuses the issue by making spam seem more legitimate than it really is. It cannot be repeated enough: spam is theft of service, parasitic traffic living off of bandwidth and manhours paid for by others. This is the message that needs to be hammered into those that matter in the grand scheme of things, so that the appropriate laws get passed to throw the perpetrators [spamhaus.org] in jail where they belong.

      • by hetairoi ( 63927 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @12:02PM (#5736438) Homepage
        I know it's useless, but I'm gonna do it anyway, just to make myself feel better.

        You can easily turn off all the AOL banner ads and most of the other offending material, just go to preferences\marketing and set everything to off.

        Also, I'd like to point out that AOL is one of the very few ISP's that offer dialup from almost anywhere, with no extra charges for out of towners. Back when I travelled all over the country this was of great importance to me.

        Recently, since the spam blocking feature was implemented in 8.0 I've noticed much less spam going to my open aol account. Sure, I still get a good bit, but I can tell it's dropping, I used to get hundreds of spams/day, now I only get about 25 or so. Also, I have another screenname where I use the built in blocking tools, sure they aren't great, but I NEVER get spam to that email address, if only because it blocks everyone I don't accept.

        My AOL account is used by 4 people in 3 different states. AOL has never even questioned this, please tell me of another ISP that wouldn't freak when different users logged in from different states. My parents use it and a couple of my friends use it for email and some web browsing. Oh, and even though they likely don't know it, you can minimize the aol window and use whatever browser you choose. I will also point out here that AOL does not kick you off for inactivity anymore, or even pop up a msg telling you you've been idle (ok, the buddy list msg pops up, but that's it). That hasn't been part of AOL since about version 4.0.

        And about all those cd's they send out, there are tons of uses for them. I've always got plenty of coasters, even though I rarely get an AOL cd in the mail anymore. I really like the cases they use now too, toss the cd and I have a new cd case to use with cd's of my choice.

        I proudly admit to having an aol account for at least 10 years. The only problem I have ever had with AOL was back when they had the huge surge of users and I kept getting busy signals, but hey, sometimes business is better than you expect. It only took them a few months to get enough lines up in my area and I haven't seen that problem since then.

        As to your point about AOL advertising to it's users, well, yeah, duh, they are in the business of making money. I see nothing wrong with this. They offer a channel for their users to buy things, if a particular user doesn't want to use those channels they can turn them off, easily.

        Sorry for the rant, but I just don't get why so many people just bash AOL because 'AOL users suck'. Maybe it's the same thing with Wal-Mart, they are hated because they are successful, both started out as small, individually owned companies and have grown into enormous intergalactic corporations.

        \sigh\ If I didn't know that this post isn't going to get read I'd feel like I were committing karma suicide by admitting that I actually like AOL.

    • OH THE HUMANITY (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jvbunte ( 177128 )
      I am ashamed to call AOL my 800lbs Gorilla.

      At least AOL has lawyers and money and might actually be able to do something here. It DOES cost them money not to mention the negative stigma of knowing if you ever sign up for an AOL account, your email will be prefilled with 1000 spams before you even log on the first time.

      Its not that other ISP's don't do anything, they are just more concerned about shielding their customers from it rather than eliminating the source of it. My "Earthlink Spaminator" cuts my i
    • by McDutchie ( 151611 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:09AM (#5735051) Homepage
      So where is Sanford Wallace these days?

      According to this article [annonline.com], he now runs a non-spam autoresponder service [smartbotpro.net]. But there are a good 150 hardcore spammers [spamhaus.org] who took his place.

  • eh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by machine of god ( 569301 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:21AM (#5734780)
    On one hand, suing spammers; on the other, forcing providers to disclose customer activity. It's dancing with the devil. (I'm assuming, since I've never actually done it to my knowledge. But I think that's what it would be like.)
    • I agree. The solution to this problem (any problem) should not, under any circumstances, involve compromising the rights of others. Why should the service providers (and thier customers) be penalized because AOL has a problem with spam? If AOL and its lawyers cannot determine who is sending the spam, then AOL is out of luck.

      Keep in mind, if it actually does happen that service providers are forced to disclose private data, then we are looking at a problem with government, not a problem with AOL. Only gover
    • On one hand, suing spammers; on the other, forcing providers to disclose customer activity. It's dancing with the devil

      I wonder what the impact would be, in the cases where AOL cannot track down the spammer without violating individual rights, if they were to simply contact, or if needed, publicly identify the ISP that knowingly hosted the spammer, and then let the flood of complaints begin.
      If somebody told me that stack of spam was coming from *ISP-name-here*, and that *ISP-name-here* had been informed
    • If it's anything like ordinary spam, that "customer activity" is probably blatant fraud. I'd say that most of the spam which gets through my filters is insultingly obvious fraud or otherwise illegal -- Nigerian bank scams, cross-border pharmacies, herbal cure-all quackery, and pyramid schemes, "free"-but-CC-still-required porn, et al. Occasionally it may be possibly legitimate, if bizarre -- such as somebody trying to spam for some kind of Canadian Healthcare Directory (?!) -- but generally no.

      And if the
  • by somethingwicked ( 260651 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:22AM (#5734781)
    I know its not a unique thought, and it's not quite the same thing, but

    I find this such utter hypocrisy as their "Free CDs" are spammed to everyone

    Not that they should stop going after the spammers, they just need to let up on the CDs
    • by Ed Avis ( 5917 ) <ed@membled.com> on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:26AM (#5734810) Homepage
      The day you get 100 'free CDs' every day and have to foot the postage charge yourself, you might have a valid complaint.
      • by Cutriss ( 262920 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:01AM (#5735005) Homepage
        The day you get 100 'free CDs' every day and have to foot the postage charge yourself, you might have a valid complaint.

        And this comment within itself outlines how one can deal with the problem.

        Simply put, you're not paying the postage...AOL is doing so pre-emptively. That means that you can mark all of your AOL CDs as "Return to Sender", and cost AOL even more money.

        Keep it up. They'll stop. They did for me. :) The last straw for me was when I had a PO Box, and I had to wait in line at the Post Office for 20 minutes for an unexpected pickup notice, only to find the new AOL CD in a DVD case...too big to actually fit in my PO Box...
        • [I]That means that you can mark all of your AOL CDs as "Return to Sender", and cost AOL even more money. [/I]

          Wrong. The CDs were sent via third class mail. This is the 'it gets there when it gets there' kind of delivery service. Subsequently, if they are refused or marked in that manner, they are usually just destroyed simply because it costs more for the postal service to do more processing.
      • "...foot the postage charge yourself"

        Not really the point is it? At $20/month for dialup, cost of each piece of spam is rather insignificant. Cost is not the issue, annoyance is.

        I get at least 3-4 cd's a week at work. A couple at home. Annoying. Just like spam.
        • At $20/month for dialup, cost of each piece of spam is rather insignificant.

          But how much does it cost to your provider in terms of bandwitdth and storage space (as well as processing time)? And as their costs goes up, the difference will get passed on to you.

      • Personally, I still believe its a valid complaint.

        Yes, yes, it is more complicated than my simple analogy...

        As I said tho, you're right, its NOT the same thing, as I said in my original post. However, it IS in the same spirit:

        Send out craploads of cheap "mail", if 1 out of 1000 bites, you win. Screw the other 999 who wasted time and effort dealing with your crap.

        Would you suggest if they didn't have to pay the postage they would THEN care about the people who don't want their crap?

        Its like a musician
    • by TCaM ( 308943 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:29AM (#5734824) Homepage
      While I have no interest in the many free aol/earthlink/other isp cds I get in the mail, they have never reached the point where my mailbox has been overcome in a single day thus forcing my mail to be bounced. Aol pays postage and production costs for this crap, most spammers pay very little and generally do cause damage and increased costs to their victims.
    • I find spammed CDs fun. I actually get something for free, which if nothing else I can use as a coaster (or pop in my microwave). I like snail-mail spam next. You could do a dilbert and install a paper burning home heater. Spam email is the worst kind. It costs the sender nothing (or next to nothing) and I have have to delete them (which is work).
  • by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:24AM (#5734795)
    How do they know it's five spammers and not, say, ten? Nice to see George Moore in the list of known defendants though :)
  • by Mohammed Al-Sahaf ( 665285 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:24AM (#5734798)
    This is yet another lie. These companies did not send any spam. Today we slaughtered them in the airport. They are out of Saddam International Airport. The force that was in the airport, this force was destroyed. The American press is all about lies! All they tell is lies, lies and more lies!
    • > This is yet another lie. These companies did not send any spam. Today we slaughtered them in the airport.

      Y'know, I think we've got a job for you after the war. As part of the terms of ceasefire, you'll be required to make good on just one of your pronouncements. Please, God, let it be that one. *g*

  • Not just spam. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FyRE666 ( 263011 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:25AM (#5734805) Homepage
    Surely they could also sue for "wire fraud", sue to the ridiculous and blatently untrue claims in most of the spam. Then there's the pyramid schemes, 419 scams etc. I'd think in those cases, it would be more lucrative to lodge complaints about the contents of the spam the scumbags are sending rather than the spam itself. "73 million counts of wire fraud" sound good to me!
    • Re:Not just spam. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by alkali ( 28338 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:41AM (#5734890)
      The animal known as "wire fraud" is a criminal violation of federal law. It's not a thing Joe Citizen can sue for. (Similarly "mail fraud.")

      You can sue for garden-variety fraud under state law, but you have to have been actually defrauded (i.e., you actually believed some false statement and were damaged by relying on it). If you know you're being lied to, you haven't been defrauded.

    • ..but they've sued and won previously for Trespass to Chattels. That's fancy talk for messing with somebody's stuff, in this case - aol's mail servers. Incidentily, in AOL v. National Health Care Discount ( 121 F. Supp. 2d 1255) it seems each email costs $.00078, that's how they determine damages.
  • by Col. Panic ( 90528 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:28AM (#5734815) Homepage Journal
    The enemy of my enemy is my friend? Lesser of two evils? I'm not sure how to feel about this. I think I'll hate them both.
    • there is no reason to hate AOL.. just don't use them, or reccomend them to people that you care about.

      I personaly like having them around, they keep all the idiots on this planet away from good ISP's like the one I use for my servers. Small, localy owned, and easy to deal with.

      If the stupid morons on this planet didn't have AOL, my friend adam (who's the sysadmin there) wouldn't have time to take care of my BGP issues, or write 4/1 RFC's.
  • by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:31AM (#5734832) Homepage
    AOL hasn't actually figured out who all the defendants are

    They do know who at least one is: George Moore aka "Dr. Fatburn". Who is also being dragged into court by Symantec [internetweek.com] as well.

    I wonder if his own actions to try to gag a web site turned him into a lawsuit magnet?

  • by ASPirant ( 139119 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:31AM (#5734834) Homepage
    I find it interesting that they always go for the outlet doing the spamming. Why don't they sue the individuals paying the spammers to send the emails? Instead of trying to kill the spammers, starve them by making companies think twice about using this method.

    You'd think that this means of advertising would actually destroy the "goodwill" of the product being advertised. I know I have less respect for companies that use this means.
    • by FyRE666 ( 263011 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:38AM (#5734877) Homepage
      Why don't they sue the individuals paying the spammers to send the emails?

      Well the most obvious reason would be that a company's rivals could pay a scumbag to send out spam just to ruin their reputation and see them taken to court. I'm sure most of the pr0n/scam companies advertised in the spam have a pretty cavalier attitude toward keeping track of their finances, so it'll be difficult to follow an audit trail to prove guilt.
      • Why don't they sue the individuals paying the spammers to send the emails?

        Well the most obvious reason would be that a company's rivals could pay a scumbag to send out spam just to ruin their reputation and see them taken to court. I'm sure most of the pr0n/scam companies advertised in the spam have a pretty cavalier attitude toward keeping track of their finances, so it'll be difficult to follow an audit trail to prove guilt.

        If there's no audit trail to follow, the innocent company will be found not g

    • Why don't they sue the individuals paying the spammers to send the emails

      Because, as much as we might not like it, stupidity is not a crime.

      Spammers are con-artists - the only difference between spam and bilking little old ladies out of their life savings is that spammers have two sets of victims - the people they con to pay them, and the recipients of the spam.

      Should we also start suing the little old ladies who get caught by con-men pretending to be bank officers? It think this would have the same ef
      • Oh, come on, that has to be the weakest argument I've read on /. in quite some time.

        For the most part we're talking about companies that sell (among other things) "herbal viagra", penis enlargment, and cures for balding, using claims that are tenuous at best... for the most part, their own businesses are themselves cheap scams. You're expecting us to believe that they're legitimate businessmen being conned by what they assume are legitimate "internet marketing consultants"? Don't be absurd.

        Even so, if a b

    • Well the people who pay the spammers to send spam are the same people that buy stuff over spam. Its this little sub echonoimy thing where a buch of people rip off a bunch of people who are tring to rip them off. And we get the shrapnal that we call spam.
    • The problem with that is that in many cases the spammers are not legally selling what they are offering. Take the recent case posted on /. where the spamers personal info was posted (can't find the story now or I would link to it). In that case when Symantec was approached (because the guy was selling Norton Anti-Virus by spamming ppl) Symantec reported they were investigating him for selling pirated copies.

      It stands to reason that spammers who use fraudulent claims, methods or unethical tactics are more t
  • AOL the source of, and now solution to, all of our spam problems....

    Mike
  • by MrLint ( 519792 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:38AM (#5734872) Journal
    Ok here is the disclaimer right off, I do not advocate spamming, and i think there needs to be a gulag that spammers are thrown into. That much said, from the article, "filing the lawsuits gives AOL additional authority to subpoena service providers and others to try to track down the spammers" I recall much derision when the RIAA sued Verizon for customer info of alleged music traders. Now AOL is suing to get spammer customer information. I think we need to seriously consider the possibility of situational ethics. The track record of scumminess of the RIAA is widely hated, so most don't like anything they do. Likewise spammers, also so widely hated so no one cares what happens to them (even me). When is getting a customer's info right, when is it wrong? I think this is a tough question we, as a community, have to think about and perhaps ultimately face in the future.
    • by rearden ( 304396 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:03AM (#5735015) Homepage
      I may be off my mark here as IANAL but there is a big difference. AOL has proven that a) there has been a tangible violation of the law b) they have tracked the violater back to a particular system(s) c) they are suing the violator and not the company the violator is using to send email.

      In the RIAA vs. Verizon case RIAA was suing to get the subscriber information without ever proving that there were specific incidences of copyright violation (instead charging that P2P is ONLY used to steal music). In addition they did not sue copyright violators (as a "Jane or John Doe") and then use supoenas to get the personons name. Instead they sued Verizon to get the information directly. Verizon's argument from the begining was that that RIAA was skipping step one- 1) Show evidence of a crime and step two- 2) Seek to take action against said anonymous criminal (this may seem odd, but our legal system allows us to sue an unknown person/ group and fill in their name later). Instead RIAA sued the people who "facilitated" the crime and stated that all of Verizons customer records should be on display to the RIAA Nazi SS forces without proof or ponderance in court.

      AOL, as stated, is instead going directly after the offenders and using the power of the courts to get specific information about specific crimes, not all customer information at will and on demand.

      Just my $0.02
      • "In the RIAA vs. Verizon case RIAA was suing to get the subscriber information without ever proving that there were specific incidences of copyright violation (instead charging that P2P is ONLY used to steal music)."

        Huh? From my reading of this article [com.com], it sounds like the person whose information the RIAA was after had either shared or downloaded songs in violation of their copyright. Verizon's argument seems to revolve around the fact that the songs weren't being hosted on their servers, meaning that t

    • by nolife ( 233813 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:32AM (#5735186) Homepage Journal
      Not quite:

      RIAA wanted Verizon to turn over the the records without getting the courts involved. Verizon does not want to give this information out without a court order. AOL is going directly for the court order. Very different scenario..

      What the RIAA really wants is to avoid the courts and use the DMCA for the inital step of information gathering so they can act faster and more efficiently for shutting people down. The disadvantage of this is that they are no checks and balances present without the courts involvment, the ability to request this information on a whim could very easily be abused and nothing in terms of real proof required that a copyright violation is truely occuring. What Verizon does not want is a precedent set where any company that feels a copyright violation has occured can request this information at will. This would be a great strain for Verizon to support this. They want a court order steps followed to limit these requests, kind of like a security deposit to prevent a flood of requests for user information.

      The court battle they are in now is mainly to determine if organizations like the RIAA can request this information via the DMCA and without specific court approval. This is a much larger issue then RIAA vs. Verizon.

      http://news.com.com/2100-1023-982809.html
      http: //www.eff.org/Cases/RIAA_v_Verizon/
  • Can't the people who make SPAM (the pseudomeat product) sue spammers for defamation of a brandname?
  • Huh? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    How does a company sue itself five times?

    (Pssst! Where's my rimshot?)

  • we at the ministry of information command you to join us in throwing AOL Cd's into the heavens

    see here to join in

    http://www.theinformationminister.com/press.php?ID =612212447 [theinforma...nister.com]
  • by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:59AM (#5734994) Homepage Journal
    Go AOL! Go AOL! Go, go, go A-O-L!

    {me, shamed, crawls under a rock somewhere...}
  • Click on the spam/mortgage/whatever and see where it takes you. Whoever placed that ad paid *somebody* to send it. Spammers are getting paid by someone, get a subpoena and follow the money trail to see where the is leads you.

    Dirk
  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:30AM (#5735177) Homepage Journal
    As much as we love to bash AOL, they *do* have the resources to put something of a dent into spam. If they wanted the goodwill of the community (btw, thanks for mozilla and winamp) they could easily buy it--just start sending out flocks and flocks of lawyers to sue as many spammers as possible under the spam laws of every state that has them. Kinda like doing pro-bono work for the Internet community. Not sure if it'd be enough to stop all the open relays in Europe and Asia, but I imagine that most of the spam I get for mortgages and herbal viagra originate in the US, even if they come via overseeas servers.

    If they wanted to, of course. I doubt they will. Oh well. A boy can dream.
  • What would also be useful is for AOL (or another high profile site) to locate and sue the spammers who forge From addresses to make it look as though the spam came from AOL, Yahoo etc when it did not.
  • by doublem ( 118724 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:40AM (#5735238) Homepage Journal
    AOL gets a bad rap, and I've been trying to figure out why.

    They are the reason Netscape is still around, and just about all the money that went into developing Mozilla came from AOL.

    They pay for the development of Winamp, and distribute it free of charge.

    They created and maintain the single largest FREE Instant messaging client out there. AIM cost them money.

    They have a simplified system that lets people new to computers and the Internet get online with little fuss. They are a decent entry level ISP.

    They are one of the few competitors Microsoft has to take seriously.

    They sue Spammers, or at least try to.

    So why are they so hated?

    Customer service sucks, is even predatory.

    All those damn coasters they send out.

    They're possibly the biggest ISP out there.

    Lighten up. Someone out there started hating AOL and it's snowballed since then. If AOL dies Mozilla goes with it, as does AIM, Winamp and Netscape.

    Mozilla might survive as a sourceforge project, but most of the developers will be gone. For all intents and purposes, it will be dead.

    • They created and maintain the single largest FREE Instant messaging client out there. AIM cost them money.

      Don't forget ICQ (even though it is basically the same as AIM nowadays, but without AOL, ICQ would have died years ago).

    • Because AOL gave millions of people who had no clue about the Internet access to the Internet. This is much akin to taking several million people who have no clue how to drive, giving them shiny new high-performance cars and dumping them on the freeways.

  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:46AM (#5735285) Homepage Journal
    What if AOL were to go to the Tier-1 ISPs that fail to enforce their terms of service against spammers, and say,

    <voice character="ED-209" [imdb.com]>Your customers are in violation of your terms of service. You will terminate them. You have 15 hours to comply.</voice>

    And should they fail to comply, null-route those Tier-1's at AOL's border routers.

    What do you think Exodus, Verio, and UUNet would do when they faced the very real possiblity of being blocked from AOL?
  • by SteveXE ( 641833 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @10:03AM (#5735417)
    I dont know why you would hate AOL users, i got AOL back in 97, and i still have an account, i also have DSL but not through aol, while i agree for the most part aol sucks it does have it uses in areas other then community. Its also the worlds only free ISP, call and say you wanna quit and you get 2-3 months free, when thats up call again...and again...and again

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