01 May 1999

INTERNET SERVICE provider Virgin Net has issued a writ against one of its subscribers in an attempt to prevent him from ‘spamming’ its network with junk e-mails - the first court action of its kind in the UK. The writ was served on Surrey businessman Adrian Paris, charging breach of contract and trespass for allegedly sending more than 250,000 promotional e-mails (on behalf of ProPhoto UK) via his Virgin Net account. Virgin claims that this triggered thousands of complaints and 'caused disruption to Virgin Net’s computer system'. Paris was warned about his actions last July when he spammed an ad offering a database of e-mail addresses. When confronted, he claimed this was a mistake but Virgin was not convinced and closed his account. Undeterred, Paris opened another account in September and happily resumed spamming - at which juncture his account was again closed. Inspired by Robert the Bruce, he promptly opened a further two accounts in different names and continued his serial spamming to the fury of Virgin subscribers. The outcome of the case is likely to set a legal precedent determining the future of junk e-mail originating from the UK.