Last updated 2/28/2002
On August 31, 2001, I received this spam from Alpha Software, Inc. The spam only included the subject line "ADV...The Database Bill Gates Does Not Want You to Know About" and did not include the company name, sender name, or contact details, but said to send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with "TRIAL" in the subject line to receive more information. Since I own the peacefire.org domain, I created a throwaway temporary address that I used to request the information, and I got back this response, which identified the company as Alpha Software and gave their Web site and contact information. I have since talked to Richard Rabins, the CEO of Alpha Software, and he confirmed that their company was behind the spam.
I have already won several cases against spammers under Washington State's anti-spam law, and I now have a case pending against Alpha Software. Even after the lawsuit was filed, Alpha Software continued spamming (see this complaint from February 2002).
A Google Groups search indicates that Alpha Software already had a reputation as a spammer. In 1997, mentions of Alpha Software in anti-spam newsgroups were limited to complaints that Alpha's "NetMailer" program was being used extensively by spammers, because the program made it so easy to send mail in bulk. But the first complaint that I could find about Alpha Software themselves sending spam, was a posting from 1998. Since then, complaints about Alpha Software's spamming have appeared regularly, with the most recent complaint from February 3, 2002. My lawsuit apparently had no deterrent effect on Alpha Software, suggesting that either (a) they do not expect me to win, or (b) they make enough money from spamming that they see such lawsuits as a cost of doing business.
I do not believe that boycotting companies is an effective way to combat spam in general -- usually spam can't even be traced to the real sender anyway, and even when it can, the sender is often a fly-by-night company or individual that could care less about being the target of a "boycott". However, if the spammer is a relatively well-known company, then public influence may cause them to change their practices. Not everyone feels strongly about spam -- but those people who feel strongly enough to refuse to do business with spammers, should be aware that Alpha Software has been spamming regularly for the last three years. That is why this page exists.
On September 10, 2001, I filed a lawsuit against Alpha Software under Washington State's anti-spam law, Revised Code of Washington 19.190. The case is Small Claims Y15885, filed in Bellevue District Court.
On October 18, 2001 I called Alpha Software and talked to the CEO, Richard Rabins, who said that his company had sent out the emails and that their lawyer had advised him that it was legal, even though they had used an AOL address to send the spam, which is strictly prohibited under AOL's bulk email policy.
The case originally came up in court on November 5, 2001, but was continued (i.e. postponed for a future date) because the papers hadn't been "served" properly on Alpha Software -- I had mailed them to the corporation's address by certified mail with a return receipt, but the return receipt had only been signed by the company receptionist, not by an officer of the corporation. (When you sue someone located out of state, they almost certainly won't show up, so you have to meet rather strict requirements to show that the lawsuit papers were properly "served" on the right party.)
The case came up again on February 25, 2002. I had served Alpha Software using a professional process server in Boston (a process server is a person or company that serves papers on parties in a lawsuit). But the case was continued again, because if you use an out-of-state process server, you have to show that the service of process conformed to the laws of that state. The case was continued to March 26, at which time I'll bring a copy of the Massachusetts law to court, and hopefully the case will be heard.
Despite the strong reactions that people often have to spam, I do not recommend calling Alpha Software just to yell at them -- the point of having an anti-spam law is to give consumers a way to fight back that actually accomplishes something, rather than just venting by calling up a spammer and telling them to go to hell. The point of including these phone numbers here is so that interested parties can call Alpha Software to hear their side, if the company wants to discuss it. The last time I talked to Alpha Software, they freely admitted that they were spamming and had no short-term intention of stopping. I can no longer contact them because of the pending legal action, but if you contact them and their position has changed, please let me know. Alpha Software can be reached at 781-229-4500 or at http://www.alphasoftware.com/. The email address of company CEO Richard Rabins, the person that I talked to, is email@example.com.
- Bennett Haselton