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Spamhaus fights US court 'pro-spammer' ruling

Change of tack

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Spamhaus has switched legal tack and decide to appeal an $11.7m judgment against it by a US court obtained by a firm it labelled a spammer. The London-based anti-spam organisation had argued that the court has no jurisdiction over it, but the threat of domain seizure has forced it to take action.

In a default ruling made by a US court last month, Spamhaus was ordered to pay $11.7m in compensation to e360 Insight, pull the organisation's listing and post a notice stating that it was wrong to say e360 Insight was involved in sending junk mail. Spamhaus did not defend the case and the ruling was made in its absence.

The voluntary organisation ignored the Illinois court on principle, amid concern that fielding a defence might open it up to a barrage of nuisance lawsuits by spammers aggrieved that its activities are frustrating their ability to deliver junk mail. It continues to maintain that it was right to describe e360 Insight as a spam operation. If you think we're wrong, then sue us in Britain, Spamhaus initially said.

e360 Insight responded by upping the ante and calling on the Illinios court to order domain registrars to suspend Spamhaus's domain, Spamhaus.org. If carried through, this would have resulted in a huge volume of spam hitting email servers. The draft order called on either internet governance body ICANN or Canadian registrar Tucows to suspend the spamhaus.org domain. ICANN washed its hands of the affair by saying it didn't have the authority to pull Spamhaus's domain. In any case the order has yet to be signed by the judge.

But, e360 Insight's aggressive legal moves have prompted Spamhaus to switch strategy. Spamhaus has now filed an appeal against the original default judgment against it. US law firm Jenner and Block is representing Spamhaus in the case.

In an updated statement on e360 Insight's lawsuit, Spamhaus said it intends to "contest the ruling in order to stamp out further attempts by spammers to abuse the US court system". e360 Insight's rather different take on the case can be found here.

The cases has sparked a lively debate on the net with some deriding the court's decision while other, such as law professor Matthew Prince, commenting that Spamhaus has been ill-advised in its handling of the case. ®

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