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October 9, 2006

Federal Court Spanks Samphaus Project with Contempt Order

File this one under "oops."  The Spamhaus Project (Spamhaus.org) is a web site that blocks spam by blacklisting what it believes to be known spammers.  Many mail servers use Spamhaus lists to block traffic associated with those spammers.  Spamhaus is based in Britain.  So far, so good.

One of those alleged spammers, E360 Insight, decided that they should not be on a Spamhaus list, so they sued, and the case wound up in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois.  (Oddly enough, the court is based about a block away from my office here in Chicago.)  Spamhaus entered an answer to the complaint but essentially abandoned the proceedings after that point.  Most civil procedure students know that when you answer a complaint you have subjected yourself to the jurisdiction of the courts.  Even the D students.  The lack of any action by Spamhaus in this case resulted in a default judgment of $11.7 million.  Spamhaus seemed not to care believing that that U.S. court orders are unenforceable in the U.K., so there was no way E360 Insight could collect on monetary damages.  This is typically true when there is no property to seize to enforce the judgment. 

However, federal Judge Charles Korcoras proposed a contempt of court order pulling the Internet domain registration from Spamhaus, essentially shutting them down.  The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is based in the United States and, in theory, must follow court orders.  All of a sudden Spamhaus can use a little extra tea to swallow those crumpets.  Spamhaus seems to think that either ICANN or the court will rethink the order as it would unleash 50 billion spam messages per day that are now blocked by the organization.  Maybe, but it doesn't help Spamhaus to have pulled out of the lawsuit before it thought out the possible consequences.  Not everything of value is measured in money.  Courts have been aware of that for hundreds of years.  We shall see if the court will let slip the dogs of spam.  You won't need a blog to tell you if that happens.  Just check you in box.

Articles are in Ars Technica, ABC News, and NetworkWorld.  The proposed order is here (thanks NetworkWorld for the link).

October 9, 2006 | Permalink


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