Will Spamhaus Get Shut Down Over Dispute?
from the not-good dept
Last month, we wrote about a judge awarding an $11 million judgment against anti-spam organization Spamhaus, after an accused spammer (in Spamhaus’s database) sued the organization. Spamhaus lost, in part, because they refused to appear (though, the details now suggest they originally did appear, and then stopped). Spamhaus is run by Steve Linford, who is based in the UK. The suit was filed in Illinois — so Spamhaus had a reasonable claim that the Illinois court has no jurisdiction over a UK-based organization, and little worry that they would need to actually pay (if they had $11 million, which it seems likely they don’t as a volunteer group). However, they probably didn’t expect the latest turn of events.
The court is now thinking about asking ICANN to suspend spamhaus.org, which would cause all sorts of problems for the many, many, many ISPs, companies and individuals out there who rely on Spamhaus’ list of spammers. Dave Farber’s Interesting People discussion list is having a big debate over this, pointing to a worthwhile discussion from an Illinois lawyer and spam fighter not involved in the case. He points out why the judge really had no choice, due to some mistakes that Spamhaus made early on, and warns that Spamhaus may be in real trouble if they try to duck this. While others argue that Spamhaus may be able to continue operating without a domain, but just using an IP address, there’s no guarantee the court won’t try to shut down the IP address as well. Either way, this all represents a real dilemma for Spamhaus, generally one of the most respected anti-spam lists out there. They probably have a reasonable defense: all they do is put out a list. They do not actively block a spammer, and they generally can back up why certain spammers are on their list in pretty great detail. However, if they are forced to defend each and every lawsuit filed by an upset spammer, it would make it prohibitively costly for Spamhaus (or any other such list) to remain in business — in which case all of us who rely on such lists lose out. It’s not clear where this goes from here, but it could represent a serious issue for anyone who keeps an anti-spam list or uses an anti-spam list to filter their email.