RealTime IT News

MySpace Sues 'Spam King'

Life after the CAN-SPAM Act hasn't worked out the way self-proclaimed "Spam King" Scott Richter might have liked it to.

Social-networking site MySpace announced today it has filed suit against Richter, calling him the mastermind behind millions of spam "bulletins" sent to MySpace users' accounts without their knowledge.

MySpace said those bulletins, allegedly sent between July 2006 and December 2006, violate state and federal laws, including California's anti-spam statute and the CAN-SPAM Act, which Richter publicly supported at its passing.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Friday, seeks a permanent injunction barring Richter and his affiliated companies from MySpace, as well as punitive damages totaling at least $50 per spam message sent, according to the complaint.

Richter was unreachable for comment by press time.

A MySpace spokesperson told internetnews.com she was unable to comment beyond the company's statement. According to the lawsuit, Richter either phished MySpace accounts himself or acquired a list of phished accounts to launch his spam campaigns.

Phishing is a method familiar to Richter who is already a notorious spammer.

In a 2003 lawsuit, then New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer accused Richter of sending more than 250 million junk e-mails a day.

But after Spitzer's suit and another from Microsoft that ended in Richter paying a $7 million out-of-court settlement, the one-time spammer made a public attempt to take his business legitimate.

When Congress passed the CAN-SPAM Act in November 2003, the law on which MySpace is basing its suit, Richter applauded. "We're very happy. Our January bookings skyrocketed after the passage," Richter said at the time.

By June 2005, Richter was even taken off the Spamhaus Project's Register Of Known Spam Operations list of the 200 worst spammers in the world. At the time, Spamhaus leader Steve Linford said that "against the odds he appears to have pulled it off. We have not seen spam from Richter for so many months that his time is up."

Today his enthusiasm for the law seems to have gone unrewarded, throwing Richter's seeming turnaround into question.

Richard Neff, chair of the Intellectual Property group at law firm Greenberg Glusker, isn't surprised by the turn of events, saying that no matter what Richter does, his name is more or less synonymous with spamming.

The "unfortunate" reality is that lawsuits such as MySpace's, Spizter's or even Microsoft's might just be the cost of doing business for a spammer like Richter, Neff told internetnews.com.

If Spizter was correct in his 2003 claim that Richter cleared several million dollars a month through his illegal marketing, civil suits just might not be enough to stop him.