Spam History: The joe job and lawsuit

This certainly wasn’t the first instance of spam, but it might be the first instance of a spam related lawsuit.

It all began on April 1, 1997, when the owners of the domain name, Tracy LaQuey Parker and Patrick Parker, suddenly began to receive thousands of unwanted email messages. Bounces, rejections, angry responses to emails they had never sent. Why? A spammer had forged their domain name into the from address of their spam run. Spam lists weren’t any cleaner then than they are now, so this unrelated party, who never sent the spam email in question, was inundated with bounces, rejections from attempts by the spammer to send the unwanted spam to addresses that didn’t exist. And this was long before anybody had thought of email authentication technologies like SPF, DKIM and DMARC, so there was no real, good programmatic way to confirm or deny if the mail was legitimately authorized by the owners of But the mail was definitely unwanted, and anyone who took time to reply to these spam messages ended up sending angry replies to people who had nothing at all to do with this spam send.

Folks started to call this kind of thing a joe job, named after, who was similarly impacted by a spam run forging their domain name, also in 1997.

In the case, the defendant/spammer Craig Nowak apparently lost and was ordered to pay $13,000 in damages.

Thanks to Tracy LaQuey Parker for firing one of the first legal salvos (possibly the first?) in the fight against spam.

[ H/T: Wayne Mehl ]

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