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Man Fed Up With Junk Mail Sends Message With Lawsuit

October 15, 1995| from The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Think you're tired of receiving junk mail? Ram Avrahami, who lives in Arlington, Va., is really tired of it. In fact, he's so fed up with junk mail that he's striking back by trying to turn a clause in the Virginia code into a weapon against companies that sell their mailing lists to others.

According to Section 8.01-40 of the Virginia code, no one is allowed to use another person's name, portrait or picture "for advertising purposes or for the purposes of trade" without written consent. Avrahami concedes the regulation was designed to protect celebrities who don't want to see their names or pictures used to advertise products or causes that they haven't endorsed.

But why can't the statute apply to the rest of us as well, Avrahami wondered. Why should companies be allowed to rent their mailing lists--essentially, his name--to other organizations?

In late August, Avrahami decided to put his ideas to the test by filing suit in Arlington County court against U.S. News & World Report magazine.

His complaint sounds familiar: He subscribed to U.S. News in March. In June, Smithsonian magazine sent him an offer to subscribe. According to Avrahami's complaint, Smithsonian said it had gotten his name by renting a subscriber list from U.S. News. The case is slated for a hearing in late November.

A spokesman for U.S. News said the magazine doesn't comment on pending litigation.

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