Although he's been called the Spam King, been labeled one of the most prolific spammers in the world by Spamhaus's Registry of Known Spam Operations, and been sued for spamming, Scott Richter calls his business electronic marketing. His company, OptInRealBig.com, sends more than 100 million e-mail messages every day. He has been sued by both Microsoft and the New York State Attorney General. An edited transcript of PC World's conversation with Richter follows.
PC World: You refer to yourself as a high-volume e-mail marketer but not as a spammer.
Scott Richter: Because we don't spam. The biggest problem is when people get an e-mail that they think they didn't sign up for or don't remember signing up for, and they call it spam. Well, that's not spam.
PCW: So even when people don't realize that they signed up to be on an e-mail marketing list, is it their own fault?
Richter: It's probably confusing to people, but that doesn't make it spam. People don't realize when they sign up for sites with free giveaways, free contests, that's how those sites get members.
PCW: Do you get spam? Regular old run-of-the-mill spam, like everyone else?
Richter: Yeah, I get that, too. And antispam groups should be going after these people who send the messages that you can't remove yourself from--these are the people that need to be targeted.
PCW: Does it bother you when you get spam?
Richter: No, I just click Delete and remove myself from the mailing lists.
PCW: Do you use a spam filter or spam-blocking software? How do you deal with spam?
Richter: No. I usually just remove myself.
PCW: How does OptInRealBig gather e-mail addresses?
Richter: We have a network of free sites. We have free greeting-card sites, we have a whole variety of sites, and when users sign up, they give us permission to send them e-mail.
PCW: Can they still use the free services if they opt not to receive the e-mail marketing messages?
PCW: And all of your messages have "remove" links?
Richter: Yeah, all our messages are CAN-SPAM compliant. We honor opt-out requests. We take what we do very seriously.
PCW: Has the CAN-SPAM law changed your business?
Richter: No, it's just added more legitimacy. We believe we were already doing everything correct and legit, but now there's just some ground to stand on.
PCW: So what do you say to the people who don't think CAN-SPAM is tough enough, or who think that it is giving people a license to spam?
Richter: I don't know. That's their problem, that's not mine.
PCW: How do you react to people who challenge your business not from a legal standpoint, but from an ethical standpoint?
Richter: There are a lot of people who have a lot of time on their hands. I wish those people would take all that time and help find a cure for cancer, help puppies at the shelter, clean up the highways. I wish they would channel their efforts into what's more important.
PCW: But you have no ethical quandary with what you do?
Richter: We're not doing anything wrong. We're not doing anything that Fortune 500 companies don't do.
PCW: You're currently in the process of settling a lawsuit filed against you by the New York State Attorney General last year. Initially, you said you weren't interested in settling. So what changed?
Richter: We're settling for a low amount and we're not admitting that we did anything wrong. We're not admitting to anything. So it was cheaper than spending millions of dollars fighting a lawsuit for years. We haven't done anything wrong.