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Missouri files spam suit under new law

As efforts increase to crush spammers with legislation, Missouri's attorney general puts the state's new antispam law to the test with lawsuits against two alleged violators.

Missouri's attorney general filed lawsuits against two alleged junk e-mailers this week, the first cases brought under the state's new antispam law.

The lawsuits, filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in St. Louis, charge Phillip Nixon of Palm Beach, Fla., and proprietors of the Web site Fundetective.com, of Boca Raton, Fla., with violating the law.

"Spam is the unwanted cybersalesman with its foot in your e-mail door," Attorney General Jay Nixon said in a statement. "These lawsuits to enforce Missouri's new law are a way to close that door."

The antispam legislation, enacted Aug. 28, requires that all unsolicited commercial e-mail be labeled in the subject line with the tag "ADV," for "advertisement." Adult-related content must carry the tag "ADV:ADLT." The law also prohibits marketers from sending promotions to people who have requested to receive no further e-mail communications after one instance. Penalties are $5,000 for each violation, not to exceed $25,000 per day.

The suit against Phillip Nixon claims that he sent unlabeled commercial e-mail and violated requests for no further communications. Scott Holste, spokesman for the attorney general's office, said Phillip Nixon had sent at least five messages to an e-mail box on its network. The Fundetective.com suit alleges that that operation sent unlabeled spam.

Missouri is one of about 35 states with antispam laws and is part of a movement to use legal measures to crush spammers. California enacted antispam legislation last month with the stiffest penalties of all states. That law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, allows citizens and ISPs (Internet service providers) to seek civil damages of up to $1,000 per e-mail per customer and $1 million per mass mailing.

There is no federal law on the books as of yet, but Congress is seriously considering two antispam bills, the Anti-Spam Act--reintroduced this summer--and the Reduction in Distribution of Spam Act, both of which would make it illegal to send unsolicited bulk e-mail that does not include a way for recipients to exempt themselves from future mailings.

Attorney General Nixon is requesting an injunction against all defendants to prohibit further violations of the law. The suit does not specify penalties.