Friday 06 13, 2014

Firm Prevails on Summary Judgment Against Professional Spam Plaintiff Timothy Dewitt

On June 11, 2014, the firm prevailed on behalf of its client on its summary judgment motion in Alameda Superior Court in the case of Timothy Dewitt v. Devry University, Inc., et al., No. RG12638207.

In granting summary judgment to the defendants, the Court clarified how the California spam law applies to email “From” names. All of the 700-750 emails at issue contained a defendant’s brand name in the “From” name for each email. However, the plaintiff argued that the sending email addresses themselves were not “traceable” to a sender and as a result violated the California spam statute at Business & Professions Code §17529.5, under the case of Balsam v. Trancos, 203 Cal.App.4th 1083 (2012). The court disagreed, holding “that a header that identifies the businesses on whose behalf the email was sent falls within the exception to liability under sec. 17529.5(a)(2) even if the actual sender’s domain name is not traceable.”

The plaintiff also argued that the “From” name must identify the actual sender of the email, and not just the company being advertised. However, the court again disagreed, holding, “to the extent Plaintiff seeks to require email headers to identify both the business which authorized the email and the domain name of the third party authorized to transmit the email, his claim is subject to preemption [under the federal CAN-SPAM Act, 15 U.S.C. §7701, et seq.].” The Court also noted that “state law requiring an email’s ‘from’ field to include the name of the person or entity who actually sent the email or who hired the sender constitutes a ‘content or labeling requirement’ that is clearly subject to preemption.”

“This summary judgment victory is important because it shuts down an argument that spam plaintiffs’ have been making for years,” commented attorney Karl Kronenberger. “Now we have a decision that clearly states that ‘From’ names that identify the advertiser do not violate the California spam statute, even if the actual sending domain names are untraceable.”

A copy of the summary judgment decision is here.

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