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Notorious spammer back in court

Sanford Wallace, the spammer who ultimately turned away from the practice, claims that a California publisher harmed his new business by causing it to lose its Internet service.

Sanford Wallace, the notorious spammer who ultimately turned away from the controversial practice, has been back in court, claiming that a California online marketer unfairly harmed his new business by causing it to lose its Internet service.

The lawsuit, filed in state court in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, accuses Mark Welch, owner of Adbility, of defamation and unfair competition for allegedly causing Verio to discontinue providing Internet service to SmartBot, a business Wallace recently started. The suit seeks at least $50,000 in damages for the statements, which Welch allegedly made to prop up his own business.

"As a result of the improper actions of Welch and Adbility, SmartBot has lost customers, potential customers, revenue, and profits," Wallace's suit alleges. "These are losses that SmartBot, a relatively young company, may never recover from."

Welch denied the allegations and said Wallace is merely out to get attention. Representatives from Verio were not immediately available for comment.

Specifically, the suit accuses Welch of bragging in a newsgroup message that he would get Verio to cancel service for SmartBot, Wallace's new business. In the same message Welch allegedly also wrote: "I *will* be sending out a media advisory press release this afternoon...and the press release will identify Verio...by name."

Within days, Verio terminated SmartBot's service, the suit alleges.

Wallace was one of the Internet's first large senders of unsolicited mail and almost overnight developed a long list of enemies. Over the course of a few years, various Internet service providers terminated his service after being hacked by protesters. Wallace sued a number of his former ISPs, as well as America Online, after the giant provider started blocking email sent by Cyberpromotions, Wallace's former firm.

But times have changed. In an interview with CNET News.com, Wallace said that SmartBot in no way relies on sending unsolicited email to generate revenue.

"After looking back and seeing what kind of confusion that spam creates, I realized that spam was a bad thing on the Internet," Wallace said. SmartBot only sends marketing materials to people who request them, he added.