RealTime IT News

Verio's Alleged Spam is Temporarily Canned

In a case where a U.S. District Court is upholding a registrar's right to protect people listed in its database, register.com Inc. won a preliminary injunction against Verio Inc. preventing the Web hosting company from mercilessly spamming its customers.

Filed in the Southern District of New York August 3, register.com had accused Verio of assailing people with barrages of unsolicited commercial e-mail, direct mail and telemarketing.

As a result of the decision, Verio is barred from accessing the registrar's Whois database to target customers and must refrain from any shenanigans that fools register.com's customers into believing that the registrar is affiliated with Verio.

Register.com successfully argued that Verio, an NTT Communications subsidiary, is misleading customers and violating terms of use on Whois, according to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Lanham Act.

And amid the teeming number of copyright infringement, patent infringement and God-knows-what-other kinds of infringements piling up in the New Economy, register.com President and Chief Executive Officer Richard Forman told InternetNews.com Monday that the finding was a precedent -- customers can be protected by law from spam.

Calling the ruling a "great victory," Forman said his firm has worked hard to cultivate relationships with customers and business partners.

"Many business partners contract with us for the right to market to our customers, be it through advertising on our site or otherwise," Forman said. "It is extremely heartening to us that the court recognized the value of these relationships which we have worked so diligently to create."

Verio is prevented from the following under the temporary stay:

  • Using the register.com or "first step on the web" marks, or any similar designation in connection with the advertising, marketing or promotion of Verio services
  • Committing any act which is likely to cause third parties to believe that Verio's products or services are sponsored by register.com
  • Accessing register.com's computer networks in any manner, other than accessing register.com's Whois database in accordance with the terms of use
  • Using any data in Verio's possession, that using its best efforts Verio can identify as having been obtained from register.com's computer networks, to enable the transmission of unsolicited commercial email, telephone calls, direct mail to register.com customers, with limited exceptions

Register.com commenced legal action against Verio based on angry customer complaints the company started receiving last January, alleging that Verio was not only soliciting register.com's customers at work, but at their homes as well.

Forman told InternetNews.com Monday that he wasn't sure what the next step in the legal process would be, but that he and his company's attorneys were not averse to further litigation. He also said the fact that customers assumed register.com was consciously allowing Verio to spam them was "embarrassing," putting register.com's good reputation in jeopardy.

Verio did not return calls requesting comment Monday.

Kirk Ruthenberg, a Washington D.C.-based partner and head of the e-business practice with the law firm Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal, said the ruling was no surprise as most states have specific laws that were put in place to protect people from spam.

What makes this case interesting, Ruthenberg told InternetNews.com, was that the court found in favor of a business complaining about spam to its customers, as opposed to the usual cases of individual people taking pesky spammers to task.

"What this case does is go further in protecting the relationships a business has with its customers," Ruthenberg said. "But I wonder, how far this go? Does this mean that anybody that wanted to use that information is barred from doing so?"

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