Wow, so much progress in one day. Company "W" came back with the story that they didn't actually buy the list. It was given to them by one of the owners friends. I think we can all guess how he's feeling (the owner and the friend!).
The friend had used some software called "Atomic" or similar to scan web sites and extract the email addresses. A quick google brings us
Atomic Email Hunter, an email extractor, is designed to harvest e-mail addresses and user names from web sites using the HTTP protocol.
(I'm not linking to the web site on principle by the way). I'm hoping to speak to "friend" to find out more about how this software works, how many addresses it found, how he chose (or if the software chose) the domain names to scan for email addresses. I also want to know how it describes itself to the hunted web server (I expect it calls itself "internet explorer" or similar).
Onto company "D", who came back with the correct name and phone number of the company they bought an address of mine from. They also included a request that I don't make contact with them again and said they would involve solicitors if I say anything slanderous against them. I thought that it couldn't be slander if it was true (and I have the spam email to prove it) - perhaps I better check....
Quick google search returns: Basic Libel for Idiots
normal caveat applies here - don't trust everything you read on the internet as it could be wrong!
Basic Libel for Idiots
By Adam Porter, editor Year Zero, Dec 2002.
Libel is the written word. Slander is spoken.
There are two versions of defamation, libel and slander. Libel is when the defamation is written down (including email, bulletin boards and websites), and slander is when the incident relates to words spoken.
In the UK, if someone thinks that what you wrote about them is either defamatory or damaging, the onus will be entirely on you to prove that your comments are true in court. In other words, if you make the claim, you've got to prove it!
OK, I stand corrected, I would be libeling company D if I lied about how they sent me spam, not slandering them! I wont correct the man at company D on this point though, he'd rather not hear from me and if he really has given me the details of the list he bought then I will leave him in peace.