Canada's spam king apologizes

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  1. adbutcher

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    Canada's spam king apologizes

    From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

    A Canadian man accused of being one of the biggest spammers in the world by Yahoo Inc. has agreed to stop sending unwanted e-mails and plans to help educate children about the dangers of the Internet.

    In March, Yahoo sued Eric Head and his father and brother as part of an industry crackdown on unsolicited e-mail, or spam. Yahoo alleged the Heads ran a huge spamming operation and sent more than 94 million e-mails in one month alone to users of Yahoo's e-mail service.

    The Heads have settled the lawsuit and agreed to pay Yahoo at least $100,000 (U.S.). The exact amount of the payment is confidential, but a lawyer for the family said it was "six figures."

    Although the lawsuit was against all three men, the allegations centred on Eric Head, 25, who ran a bulk e-mail business from the family's home in Kitchener, Ont. Mr. Head has shut down his operation, called Gold Disk Canada, and become a drummer in a rock band.

    "Eric is out of business," said Huey Cotton, a Los Angeles lawyer who represented the Heads. "He's going to play in a band and find a way to use his knowledge to help protect kids on the Internet."

    Mr. Head was unavailable to comment, but in a prepared statement he expressed "his deep regret for any inconvenience he may have caused anyone."

    "I urge everyone who is involved in the commercial bulk e-mail business to cease all operations unless and until they are completely compliant with the requirements of the new United States anti-spam laws. There is no substitute for complete compliance," he said.

    "It is critical that every person be given an opportunity to opt-out of receiving e-mail correspondence promoting commercial products."

    Mr. Cotton said Mr. Head's father, Barry, and younger brother, Mathew, were not involved in the e-mail business. Barry runs a local alarm business and Matthew, 21, is a college student.

    The settlement was reached several weeks ago and approved by a judge last Thursday. Mr. Cotton said the agreement is not an admission of wrongdoing and the Heads neither admit nor deny Yahoo's allegations. A lawyer for Yahoo confirmed the settlement but declined further comment.

    On March, 10, Yahoo, Microsoft, America Online and Earthlink announced lawsuits against hundreds of spammers around the world (the Heads were the only Canadians).

    The companies invoked a new U.S. anti-spamming law known as CAN-SPAM, or Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing. Similar legislation doesn't exist in Canada, but the federal government has set up a task force to examine a range of anti-spam measures including whether a law is needed.

    The companies said Internet users received more than two trillion unwanted e-mails last year, accounting for about half of all e-mail traffic. They also said spam costs North American business $10-billion annually in lost productivity.

    The legal action attracted international attention, and Mr. Cotton said the publicity was "overdone" and unfair to the Heads.

    "People didn't distinguish between any of the Heads and anyone with the last name Head was essentially vilified," he said. "That, plus reporters jumping up in windows and trying to snap pictures just really traumatized the younger members and the older members of the family."

    Eric Head started Gold Disk Canada in 1998 at the age of 19. His main business involved gathering e-mail addresses and selling lists to bulk marketers at prices ranging from $29.99 (Canadian) for 100,000 address to $1,599.99 for 10 million names, according to his website. He also offered a compact disc of 37 million addresses for $129 (U.S.).

    Mr. Head later designed programs, with names such as Infinity, Kamikaze and Bulk Mate, to collect, manage and send volume e-mail.

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