Venkat analyzes the appeals court decision in Balsam v. Trancos, Inc.. In this case the appeals court decided that emails have to identify some actual person or entity they are sent by or from. Emails that do not identify the sender are in violation of the California anti-spam statute.
Venkat talks about all the reasons he thinks this is a problematic ruling, and the CA courts and anti-spam activists certainly have their share of bad rulings. I’m less convinced. The crux of the case seems to be that the advertiser used a number of random domains to hide the responsible party for an email. Rotating domains is a very, very common spammer tactic that is specifically a way to avoid domain based filters.
I understand Venkat’s concern but as someone who gets a lot of these spams I think the court is certainly ruling within the spirit of the CA statute. These mailers are using random domains to avoid filters and mislead recipients as to the source of the mail. Even if the domains are legitimately owned by the advertiser, they are usually hidden behind privacy protection and give the recipient no real information about who is sending the mail.
Another interesting point is the court speaking out against privacy registration. Personally, I don’t think any business should ever hide their domain registration behind privacy protection. If you’re a business, then you should stand up and give real contact information. I know it can be scary, particularly for people working out of their home, but if you’re a real business, you need to have an address registered with your state. Furthermore, if you’re a business sending email, all that email must contain a physical postal address. Your address already needs to be public, and including that in whois records isn’t actually going to change anything.