MySpace Defeats Spammer

We all know that MySpace.com is a social networking service that allows members to create unique personal profiles online to find and communicate with other people. However, did you know that MySpace is out there in Cyberspace seeking to root out spammers? A recent court victory shows this to be true. Read on.

MySpace filed a lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles against defendant Sanford Wallace d/b/a FreeVegasClubs.com, RealVegas-Sins.com, and Feebleminded Productions. MySpace alleged that the defendant had engaged in an abusive scheme to disseminate commercial messages and solicitations to MySpace users.

Indeed, according to MySpace, it received many complaints related to the defendant's Web sites, and after investigation, it discovered that the defendant had created more than 11,000 similar MySpace profiles and 11,383 unique America Online email accounts to register those profiles.

MySpace concluded that the defendant must have used an automated bot to register those profiles and addresses. By creating more than 11,000 unique email addresses, MySpace concluded that the defendant had circumvented MySpace's unique-email address registration requirement and that by creating 11,000 unique profiles the defendant had circumvented MySpace's daily limit on the number of messages that can be sent from any one profile in a single day.

MySpace claimed that the defendant first sent out a series of messages, comments, and bulletins to MySpace users designed to redirect users to a Web site containing a MySpace logo and soliciting MySpace members' user names and passwords through a box that closely resembled a box used by members when logging onto MySpace. The defendant then allegedly used this phishing technique to hijack members' user names and passwords so that the defendant could log onto their profiles and send messages to their friends and send them to the defendant's Web sites.

Overall, MySpace asserted that the defendant sent nearly 400,000 messages and posted 890,000 comments from 320,000 hijacked MySpace user accounts. MySpace also claimed that the defendant created groups on MySpace that redirected users to the defendant's Web sites, which included altering the MySpace "unsubscribe" link to point to the defendants' Web sites instead of actually allowing members to unsubscribe.

On top of all of this, MySpace argued that the defendant's Web sites contained adult-oriented material; and because MySpace permits users as young as fourteen years old to create profiles, the defendant's activities on MySpace created the possibility that minors might view offensive content.

Finally, the defendant admitted that his Internet business earns him about $1 million per year.

MySpace asked the federal court to enter an injunction prohibiting the defendant's complained of activities. MySpace sought this relief under the CAN-SPAM Act. This statute, among other things, regulates how commercial email is transmitted, prohibits the use of false, misleading or misleading information, and requires accurate contact information.

So, did MySpace prevail? Well, while MySpace did not obtain absolutely all of the relief it sought, there is no question that MySpace scored a major victory against the defendant.

Specifically, the defendant was ordered (a) not to access or use the MySpace Web site to transmit any electronic messages, (b) not to establish or maintain any MySpace profiles or accounts, (c) not to use MySpace for any commercial purpose, (d) not to refer to MySpace in connection with any unsolicited electronic communication in any way that suggests that the message is affiliated with MySpace, (e) not to use any MySpace logo in a manner that would suggest to users that they are logging onto their MySpace accounts, and (f) not to induce a MySpace user to provide MySpace identifying information without full knowledge and consent that the defendant is not affiliated with MySpace.

MySpace has done a good thing in obtaining injunctive relief against the defendant's activities. Such an injunction plainly benefits MySpace users. This relief also helps MySpace, because the defendant's conduct, according to MySpace, caused MySpace to incur bandwidth and delivery costs, costs associated with devoting time, money and resources to stopping the defendant's activities, and harm to MySpace's reputation.

Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. His Web site is http://www.sinrodlaw.com and he can be reached at [email protected]. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please send an email to him with Subscribe in the Subject line.

This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.