Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Man makes living suing email spammers

Daniel Balsam hate spam. Almost everybody does, of course. But he has acted on his hate as few have, going far beyond simply hitting the delete button. He sues them. Eight years ago, Mr Balsam was working as a marketer when he received one too many email pitches to enlarge his breasts. Enraged, he launched a website called danhatesspam.com, quit a career in marketing to go to law school and is making a decent living suing companies who flood his email inboxes with offers of cheap drugs, free sex and unbelievable holiday offers.

"I feel like I'm doing a little bit of good cleaning up the internet," Mr Balsam said. From San Francisco Superior Court small claims court to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, Mr Balsam, based in San Francisco, has filed many lawsuits, including dozens before he graduated law school in 2008, against email marketers he says violate anti-spamming laws. His many victories are mere rain drops in the ocean considering that Cisco Systems Inc. estimates that there are 200 billion spam messages circulating a day, accounting for 90 percent of all email.

Still, Mr Balsam settles enough lawsuits and collects enough from judgments to make a living. He has racked up well in excess of $1 million in court judgments and lawsuit settlements with companies accused of sending illegal spam. His courtroom foes contend that Mr Balsam is one of many sole practitioners unfairly exploiting anti-spam sentiments and laws. They accuse him of filing lawsuits against out-of-state companies that would rather pay a small settlement than expend the resources to fight the legal claims. "He really seems to be trying to twist things for a buck," said Bennet Kelley, a defence lawyer who has become Mr Balsam's arch nemesis over the years in the rough-and-tumble litigation niche that has sprung up around spam.

"There is nothing wrong per se with being an anti-spam crusader," said Mr Kelley, who has sued Mr Balsam twice for allegedly violating confidentiality terms in settlement agreements. But Dan abuses the processes by using small claims court. A lot of people will settle with him to avoid the hassle," he said. Mr Balsam mostly sues companies he accuses of violating California's anti-spam law. Among other restrictions, the law prohibits companies from sending spam with headers that misleads the recipient into believing the email is noncommercial or comes with offers of "free" products that aren't true.

1 comment:

L said...

I'm sure many people wish they could do the same thing.