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AOL Likely to Fight Junk E-Mail Ruling

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From Times Wire Services

America Online Inc. is likely to appeal a federal court order that it stop blocking promotional electronic junk mail from a Philadelphia marketing firm, an attorney for the online service provider said Friday.

“I think we’re probably going to appeal, and probably move to stay” the order, AOL attorney Michael Grow said. However, he said no further legal actions were taken Friday.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Charles Weiner ordered AOL not to block e-mail from Cyber Promotions Inc., which sends mass electronic mailings of promotional material, pending a November trial on a lawsuit Cyber Promotions filed against AOL, accusing AOL of trying to drive it out of business.

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AOL, the nation’s largest provider of online services, told subscribers this week that it had denied access to mailers from five Internet sites, including three associated with Cyber Promotions. The two others--one that distributes software to create bulk e-mail lists and one that had sent out ads for Internet video porn--were not affected by Weiner’s order.

AOL attorney David Phillips said AOL customers had been “complaining vociferously about Cyber Promotions’ junk mail.”

Cyber Promotions attorney Paul Kochanski said the judge’s ruling merely aimed to preserve the status quo and had no bearing on the issues to be decided in the pending lawsuit.

The temporary restraining order tells America Online not to block Cyber Promotions mailings to “recipients who wish to receive the mail,” and not to interfere with Cyber Promotions’ business relationships with Internet service providers.

Mailings from Cyber Promotions contain provisions describing how recipients can remove themselves from the company’s mailing list, Kochanski said.

Although unsolicited mail sent by way of the U.S. Postal Service is not considered illegal, the rules have yet to be defined in cyberspace. The larger services--AOL, Prodigy and CompuServe--all have policies forbidding mass junk mailings.

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Separately, AOL said it plans to list its common stock on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “AOL,” beginning Sept. 16.

The stock currently trades on Nasdaq, where it edged down 18.75 cents to close at $28.3125 on Friday.

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