Spam may have been sleazy but it sure wasn't cheap

A Web adult entertainment provider agreed to pay a $465,000 civil penalty for sending spam, the US FTC said.

An Internet-based provider of sexually explicit entertainment has agreed to pay a US$465,000 civil penalty for sending unwanted e-mail, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday.

The settlement with TJ Web Productions is the fifth after the FTC announced a crackdown on sexually explicit e-mail spam in July 2005, when the agency charged seven companies with violating a U.S. law requiring warning labels on sexually explicit e-mail. Sexually explicit e-mails sent by TJ Web affiliates have been "widely distributed" since May 2004, according to an FTC complaint.

Including the TJ Web settlement, the FTC has collected more than US$1.6 million in civil penalties from the five companies, the FTC said.

The FTC's Adult Labeling Rule and the CAN-SPAM Act, passed by Congress in late 2003, require commercial e-mailers of sexually explicit material to use the phrase, "sexually explicit," in the subject line, and to ensure that the initially viewable area of the message does not contain graphic sexual images. The rule and the law also require that unsolicited commercial e-mail give recipients a way to opt out of receiving future e-mail and provide a postal address.

Under the proposed settlement, TJ Web is permanently prohibited from violating the FTC's Adult Labeling Rule. The company also is permanently prohibited from violating the CAN-SPAM Act by initiating commercial e-mail without clearly and conspicuously displaying a physical postal address without also including an opt-out mechanism.

TJ Web, based in Henderson, Nevada, did not send e-mail directly to consumers, but it operated an affiliate marketing program and paid others to send e-mail on its behalf, the FTC said. TJ Web operates "dozens" of adult Web sites containing sexually explicit photographs and videos, according to the FTC complaint.

The proposed settlement, which requires court approval, also forces TJ Web to obtain agreement from affiliates that they will comply with the terms of the court order.

Although TJ Web has a Web site, there is no contact information listed nor does the company have a published telephone number, so no one there could be reached for comment.

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Grant Gross

IDG News Service

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