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5/12/2004
07:05 PM
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SpamCop Wins Round In Legal Battle

District court dissolves temporary restraining order, allowing site to continue to report complaints of spam.

SpamCop.net has escaped from its handcuffs. E-mail services company IronPort Systems Inc., owner of the spam-fighting Web site, said Wednesday that the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has dissolved a temporary restraining order against the site.

The court Monday had granted E-mail marketing firm OptInRealBig.com LLC's application for a temporary restraining order against SpamCop, preventing it from sending complaints about spammers to Internet service providers. The order was dissolved a day later.

SpamCop strives to reduce spam by forwarding complaints from E-mail recipients to ISPs to facilitate the creation of blacklists--lists of E-mail senders to be blocked. It's being sued by OptInRealBig for interference with its bulk E-mail business and for refusing to identify complainants. Scott Richter, president of OptInRealBig, is himself being sued by both Microsoft and the state of New York for sending billions of unwanted and allegedly illegal E-mail messages. Richter holds the No. 2 spot on anti-spam site Spamhaus.org's top-10 list of spammers.

The restraining order was presented ex parte, meaning that OptInRealBig's application was considered without opposing arguments from the defendant. After taking the defense's position into consideration, the court reversed the order. According to a statement from IronPort, the court cited the fact that Monday's order and SpamCop's opposition "crossed each other in the E-filing system" and expressly found that "the balance of hardships and the interests of justice favor dissolution of the TRO."

Officials at IronPort were understandably pleased. "IronPort is deeply committed to the fight against spam," says Tom Gillis, senior VP of worldwide marketing. "Whether that means technically or legally or financially, we continue to persevere. And we don't think the fight is over."

Richter was unavailable for comment. He has complained that SpamCop's refusal to identify those who object to his company's messages hampers his ability ensure that these people don't receive future mailings.

For Gillis, the issue is simple. "It's IronPort's business to protect our customers' networks," he says. "And if you're in the business of sending unwanted or dangerous content to my customers' networks, that's probably not a good business."

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