Thursday, 29 April 2004
First criminal charges under CAN-SPAM Act
Yesterday, Uncle Fed brought the first group of criminal charges under the CAN-SPAM Act. About time.
The Act makes it a felony to send multiple, commercial, unsolicited email under certain conditions. With most of the spam traversing the Internet, those conditions are easily satisfied. The lengths that some spammers will go to, to hide their identities, is well documented. In this case, one such length was rather funny in a cloak & dagger sort of way. The Washington Post reports that "investigators said, packages were sometimes delivered to a restaurant, where a greeter accepted them and passed them along to one defendant."
I would also like to note that the evidence keeps piling up that I was right when I predicted that it would take a high profile civil judgment or a high profile prison sentence before the CAN-SPAM Act would have any appreciable effect on the level of spam. One defendant, Mark Sadek, was reportedly "shocked" when Uncle Fed showed up at his door to arrest him. "No one's done this before," said Sadek's attorney. This man would obviously not have changed his behavior under the status quo. Arresting him personally is a pretty effective deterrant — but so would be arresting one of his competitors. If the prosecutors win this one, it could be just the remedy I was looking for.
For those not familiar with PTO Rule 56, it requires patent applicants to disclose all sorts of juicy information to the examiner — but only if they have actual knowledge of that information. I find it difficult to believe that a programmer working for Amazon would not have actual knowledge of more than one paper written about browser cookies. Anyone accused of infringing this patent would have a tailor-made inequitable conduct defense.