Vonage trusts not.
"You could Save up to 50% on Your Phone Bill!" screamed an email from Vonage. Obviously, users protest this unwanted, bulk email was spam. But some spam filters weren't having it -- a surprising number of these messages reached user inboxes. Vonage's marketing agent sent the email from a list of "nonsense" domain names, including the unpronounceable urgrtquirkz.com. certainly that's prohibited?'
The U.S. CAN-SPAM Act defines illegal email behavior in several ways. The applicable one relates to falsifying email headers. California law has a alike provision against sending email with falsified, misrepresented, or forged header information.
Craig E. Kleffman, a deputy DA at LA County, brought a class-action suit against Vonage in a California district court. He supposed that the use of several garbage domains was, in fact, header parody. After all, none of these domains indicate that the messages were from Vonage or from an affiliate representing the company:
The district court disagreed and noted that the California law was anyway pre-empting by CAN-SPAM. However, it permissible Kleffman to appeal. The Ninth Circuit later ruled likewise. To cut a long story short, the California Supreme Court published its ruling in the case on Monday.
The court noted, and Kleffman agreed, that the domains were correctly registered to Vonage's marketing agent in Nevada. But Kleffman's quarrel was that the use of these domains was "likely to deceive" and that the section of state law referring to distorted headers proscribes this type of "unfair" business practice.
As a spam filter technologist, I dish up users, not lawyers. I have to block whatever my customers define as spam; I'm nobody's lawful arm.
- Some countries (China, Russia, etc.) aren't taking a lawful approach to spam.
- In other countries, we get a great deal of help from controllers mainly if there is an opt-in law.
- In still others (such as the U.S.) direct marketers can play actions like this to avoid filters. They may be legal, but we block them because users want us to.
Of course, most spammers -- more exactly the senders of most spam -- don't care about the law. The question here is what do about rogue direct marketers.
A good spam filter should, eventually, block whatever the recipients perceive to be spam. There's no law compelling users to accept unnecessary email.