As both a Web lawyer and an Internet business owner, I hate spammers. There’s one right now (initials G.A.) who has become such a pain in the butt that my emails now go through a new filtering process to get rid of the 3 to 5 pieces of garbage he tries to send daily to my inbox. Unsubscribe from one list and he’s got you on several more you never opted into.
Clients and friends learn about him so he’s costing himself a lot by being a jerk.
Unfortunately, Internet-related laws can be abused too. In this case, I’m talking about a type of Web lawyer who sets up businesses designed to profit solely from suing entrepreneurs like you. They’re out there trolling for new lawsuits to file.
One guy went to law school so that he can sue spammers (even those who don’t intend to spam but do so accidentally). He subscribes to lots of lists and then sues the list owners when they violate California spam laws. By suing in small claims court under state law, he’s able to rack up a lot of wins because few Internet business owners want to deal with it. They either pay a settlement to go away or end up with a default judgment against them for not fighting lawsuits.
The second lawyer set up a company that looks for articles and photos that have been posted on websites without permission of the copyright owner. He then goes to the owner, buys up the rights, and sues the infringer in Nevada. The person who posted without permission usually settles rather than face legal fees, a court fight in Las Vegas (gambling!), etc. This lawyer has branched out from suing website owners for infringement into suing people who post copyrighted material without permission on other people’s sites, in forums, blog comments, etc.
Moral of the story?
Understand that in addition to the government cracking down, there are new profitable legal niches being created that involve suing Internet business owners for violating the law…whether or not they intended to do so. Yet another shining example that there’s a difference between law and justice.
Talk with your Web lawyer before doing something that could land you in hot water in a shakedown lawsuit.
To your online success!
-Mike the Web lawyer