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ISPs win spam lawsuits

Two major Internet service providers have managed to block junk emailer Cyber Promotions from spamming their members.

Two major Internet service providers have managed to block junk email company Cyber Promotions from sending unsolicited email to their members.

In the first case, Cyber Promotions agreed to permanently stop sending spam to CompuServe (CSRV) members as long as CompuServe allowed its members to choose to be on junk email lists. The agreement came as part of a settlement of a lawsuit CompuServe had filed to block junk email from Cyber Promotions.

In a separate case, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge issued a temporary injunction against Cyber Promotions, preventing the company from spamming EarthLink (ELNK) members. EarthLink had filed a lawsuit similar to CompuServe's, asking for permanent relief against Cyber Promotions' unsolicited email.

The temporary injunction will stay in effect until the suit is resolved, according to Kirsten Kappos at EarthLink.

A judge in the CompuServe case also issued a temporary order against Cyber Promotions to prevent it from changing its headers so it looked like the email was being sent from within CompuServe. The EarthLink order calls for the same thing.

Executives at both CompuServe and EarthLink gloated over the rulings, calling them precedent-setting victories over junk email. With spam's popularity at what appears to be an all-time low on the Internet, ISPs are falling all over themselves to appear to be the least-friendly to junk emailers.

But EarthLink and CompuServe are hardly the first Internet service providers to go after Cyber Promotions, one of the most ubiquitous spammers on the Net.

America Online (AOL) set an early precedent by blocking email from known spammers. Following lawsuits, the courts essentially resolved the issue in a manner similar to the CompuServe solution reached today. Cyber Promotions cannot send random unsolicited email to AOL members unless the members go through a fairly cumbersome process to turn off spam filters on the AOL system.

Sanford Wallace, the embattled president of Cyber Promotions, insists that hundreds of thousands of AOL members have actually gone onto the system to turn off the filters because they like and appreciate spam. And he says he's sure lots of CompuServe members will opt to be on his mailing lists as well.

In fact, Wallace characterized today's settlement with CompuServe as "a victory for everyone involved."

While CompuServe gets to stop Cyber Promotions from sending unsolicited email, Cyber Promotions still retains the right to send it. The settlement, added Wallace, also gives his company "over $30,000" in advertising on the CompuServe system.

However, Cyber Promotions has to pony up $65,000 to CompuServe for legal fees.