Free email service Juno is hoping to send a $5 million legal message to spammers.
Juno today announced that it filed a federal lawsuit against five organizations that it alleges used Juno's name as a return address in their email headers.
The practice, known as forgery, is a common ploy among junk emailers. They use it to avoid detection and to prevent their own Internet service providers' systems from being clogged by returned email.
But as more companies are implementing rules against spam and more Netizens are joining the ranks of virulent spam-haters, the practice is on the rise. And companies are fighting back.
Many large Internet companies, including Juno, have strict antispam controls and policies that prevent their own members from sending out junk email. At Juno, members can't send a single email message to more than 50 people, Charles Ardai, company president and founder, said today.
So company employees were somewhat surprised when, a few months ago, they started getting flooded with irate calls and email from people complaining that they were getting junk email from Juno members
"We suddenly got this eruption of complaints a few months ago from people saying, 'Your members have spammed me,'" Ardai said.
Juno employees spent more than a thousand person-hours trying to explain the situation. And Juno's servers were plugged with hundreds of thousands of bounced email messages.
Juno tried contacting the alleged junk emailers but got mixed results, Ardai said. So the company took them to court, suing each of them for $1 million for "damage to Juno's reputation, fraud, and trademark infringement," according to Juno, which is one of the original free Internet-based email systems.
But, Ardai stressed, the suit isn't just about money.
"We're looking to stop the practice," he said. "We're looking to make sure nobody forges our name anymore. This is not a hunt for revenue. This is a hunt for justice."
"This is not really about spam," he added. "Everyone hates spam. I loathe spam personally. [But] this is about forgery. This is about taking someone else's name and hiding behind it. No one would dream of taking Condé Nast's name and putting it in the left corner of the envelope to send junk mail and not get in trouble for it. They shouldn't get away with it on the Internet, either."