The lawsuit seeks more than $1 billion in damages on behalf of the members of Project Honey Pot, a distributed spam identification system run by Unspam that gathers spam data from decoy e-mail addresses -- honeypots -- and then shares information to assist spam identification.
Attorney Jon Praed is representing Unspam. He's the founding partner of the Internet Law Group and has represented Verizon and AOL in past lawsuits against notorious spammers.
Praed says that the complaint puts at issue all of the spam Project Honey Pot has received. That's 6.1 million spam messages received between January 2005 and April 2006, according to the court filing, which puts the number of spam servers in Virginia at more than 20,000.
"We don't know yet and can't know how many individuals are responsible," said Praed, adding that once the spammers are identified, the number of defendants will likely prove surprisingly small.
The next step is discovery. Praed declined to detail how he planned to identify the spammers but said that Project Honey Pot provided plenty of data to work with. Presumably, he will be issuing subpoenas to ISPs associated with spam servers.
Praed acknowledged that it may be difficult to stop overseas spammers. "We have to take into account the reality of what we're capable of doing," he said. "But just because someone is outside the U.S. doesn't mean they're immune from responsibility."
In instances where spammers prove to be beyond the reach of Virginia law, Praed hopes the legal roadblocks will help direct policy debates and inform future anti-spam legislation. "There are lots of ways we can affect positive change," he said.