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10/20/2006
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Judge Denies Demand To Shut Down Spamhaus

A federal judge refused the motion, saying it was too broad and would eliminate all traffic to Spamhaus.org, not just that claimed by the original lawsuit.

A federal judge has rejected an e-mail marketing company's request that the Internet domain assigned to Spamhaus, a non-profit organization based in the U.K., be suspended, giving the anti-spam group's blacklist a reprieve and avoiding a clash over U.S. rulings against the Internet.

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Kocoras denied the proposed motion from e360Insight, an Illinois-based company that sued Spamhaus for adding its domain to the blacklist, a database of spammers and suspected spammers that is widely used by spam filtering services and software. Spamhaus did not contest the case, claiming that the U.S. court had no jurisdiction.

With Spamhaus not participating, Kocoras last month was forced to rule for e360Insight, which was granted an $11.7 million judgment. Spamhaus, however, stuck by its contention that e360Insight was a known and egregious spammer, and refused to pay the fine, issue an apology, or remove e360Insight from the blacklist.

This month, e360Insight demanded that Kocoras order the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and Tucows, a domain registrar, to strip Spamhaus of its domain name for not complying with the judgment.

Thursday, the judge refused the motion, saying it was too broad and would eliminate all traffic, not just that claimed by the original lawsuit, to spamhaus.org.

"This relief is still too broad to be warranted in this case," wrote Kocoras in his rejection. "While we will not condone or tolerate noncompliance with a valid order of this court, neither will we impose a sanction that does not correspond to the gravity of the offending conduct."

The decision keeps the group's blacklist in operation, which drew reaction from David Linhardt, the chief executive of e360Insight. "If the court cannot prevent Spamhaus from violating its order, then Spamhaus will continue to censor and control the email messages Americans can receive," Linhardt wrote in a message posted on his company's Web site.

Spamhaus, which claims its blacklist blocks 50 billion spam messages a day sent to some 650 million different e-mail accounts, was unavailable for comment.

Last week, messaging service and software analyst Richi Jennings of Ferris Research said that if Spamhaus and its blacklist were to "go dark," it might fuel arguments by other countries and international organizations who want the U.S. to relinquish control of the Internet. Recent efforts along those lines have included proposals that the United Nations administer the Internet, and have grown out of frustration with some ICANN decisions, such as its May rejection of the .xxx top-level domain.

Judge Kocoras' order can be downloaded as a PDF file from the ICANN site.

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