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Spamming and Spoofing

Adam Engst, et al. v. Christopher Lee Knight, et als., Superior Court of the State of Washington, Kings County, Civil Action Number 98-2-17831

Summary

This is the first action brought by a web site owner under Washington states’ recently enacted Unsolicited Electronic Mail Act. The plaintiffs, operate an online electronic magazine, TidBITS, with two dedicated Internet servers and are owners of the domain “tidbits.com.” The lawsuit alleges that the defendants violated the statute by sending the plaintiffs dozens of pieces of spam with altered headers and false return addresses.

Analysis

The plaintiffs are the operators of an online newsletter, TidBITS, and two individuals. All are residents of Washington state and have e-mail accounts with the domain name “tidbits.com.” The defendants are the alleged operators of the “WorldTouch Network” which is in the business of electronically marketing a piece of software, “Bulls’ Eye Gold” which apparently is designed to aid Internet based marketeers in the harvesting of e-mail addresses. According to the plaintiffs, on and after June 11, 1998, each plaintiff received between seven and 43 pieces of spam promoting “Bull’s Eye Gold” from the defendants.

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The plaintiffs’ filed suit under Washington’s recently enacted Unsolicited Electronic Mail Act which forbids the sending of unsolicited e-mails to addressees whom the sender knows or has reason to know are Washington residents and which contains a false return address, altered or false header information, or false or misleading information on the subject line. The plaintiffs seek recovery as provided by the statute of $500 per individual for each piece of spam and $1,000 per violation for plaintiff Adam Engst, who provides ISP services for the other individuals. In addition, the plaintiffs seek the extra-statutory remedy of an injunction precluding further spamming, claiming, in part, that the damage remedy provided by statute is judicially inefficient.

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In accordance with Washington civil procedure, efforts were made to serve the Complaint personally on the defendants in California. From those efforts it now appears that neither “Worldtouch Network” or its alleged principal, Christopher Lee Knight, exist. The plaintiffs have moved forward to complete service via the appropriate statutory means (service by publication) after which they will move for a default judgment against the defendants which will remain enforceable.

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The plaintiffs report that within a few months of the filing of this lawsuit, Worldtouch Network’s spamming activities all but ceased.


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