Since 2002, a man named Daniel Balsam has made a career out of suing companies that send spam messages via email. Formerly a marketer, Balsam quit his job, went to law school, and has since made “well in excess of $1 million in court judgments and lawsuit settlements with companies accused of sending illegal spam.”
The key to Balsam’s legal success is a California state law which makes it illegal to send email advertisements with “falsified, misrepresented, or forged header information” or false or misleading commercial claims in the subject line. The penalty: $1000 “for each unsolicited commercial e-mail advertisement transmitted in violation of this section, up to one million dollars ($1,000,000) per incident.” And per the AP, Balsam probably gets a lot of those emails personally:
When San Mateo Superior Court Judge Marie Weiner in March ordered Trancos Inc. to pay Balsam $7,000 for sending spam that recipients couldn’t stop, she noted that he has more than 100 e-mail addresses.
Not everyone is a fan of Balsam’s, however: He has gained an archenemy in the form of defense lawyer Bennett Kelley, who says that he uses the righteous mantle of anti-spam crusading to “twist things for a buck,” gets alleged spammers to settle so they don’t have to go to court, then violates the confidentiality terms of his settlements to boast about his successes.
Balsam co-wrote and lobbied for a state law which would strengthen California’s anti-spam regulations (and, one might note, make his business potentially more lucrative); while passed by the Legislature, it was ultimately vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
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