By ASHLEY M. HEHER, AP Business Writer
The anti-spam group Spamhaus Project warned more junk e-mail could be
on the way as it prepares to lose its domain name thanks to a company
it has accused of sending spam.
Executives at the U.K.-based Spamhaus Project said Monday they expect
a federal judge in Chicago will soon sign an order that would suspend
the domain http://www.spamhaus.org because the group has refused to
recognize the U.S. court and comply with a $11.7 million judgment.
Spamhaus warned the order could unleash up to 50 billion junk e-mails
a day on computer users worldwide, though legal and technology experts
were skeptical the effect would lead to millions of clogged inboxes.
According to Spamhaus, more than 650 million Internet users --
including those at the White House, the U.S. Army and the European
Parliament -- benefit from Spamhaus' "blacklist" of spammers that
helps identify which messages to block, send to a "junk" folder or
accept. Losing the domain name would make it more difficult for
service providers and others to obtain the lists.
"If the domain got suspended, it would be an enormous hit for the
Net," said Steve Linford, Spamhaus' chief executive officer. "It would
create an enormous amount of damage on the Internet."
But experts said even if the order filed Friday is executed, it's
unlikely people would suddenly see much more junk mail. Experts note
Spamhaus' blacklist already is widely available online, and a
suspension at most would provide a hiccup Web-savvy systems
administrators could easily work around.
"Suspending a domain name isn't the same as suspending a Web site," said
Jonathan Zittrain, a law professor at Harvard and Oxford universities.
"Spamhaus is intended for use by people who run mail servers -- in other
words, technically inclined people. If Spamhaus wanted to, it could
simply pick a new domain name, or use no name at all."
Domain names are merely shortcuts to access a site's true, numeric
Internet address. Spamhaus could simply distribute that address
instead of the domain name.
And it's not even clear U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras could
easily order such a suspension because the Domain Name System is in
the hands of organizations and companies that are not parties to the
lawsuit. They could challenge any such attempt.
Spamhaus CEO Linford said the group has backup plans in place to keep
spam filters functioning, but alerting its customers to change the
address their system uses to reference the blacklist would be
Linford said "mail servers will simply fall over" from a deluge of
spam if the filters stop working.
Wheeling-based e360 Insight sought the order after Spamhaus refused to
comply with a September ruling that required it to pay $11.7 million
and post a notice on its Web site stating that e360 Insight is not a
Spamhaus officials did not bother defending themselves in the case,
arguing that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction and that doing so would
open the organization to a tidal wave of lawsuits by spammers that
want to fight those who block their e-mails.
Bart Loethen, a lawyer for e360, insists his client does not engage in
spamming and said he had to go after Spamhaus' domain until it removes
the company from the blacklist.
"They are thumbing their nose at an order of the court," Loethen said.
"What else can we do?"
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Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.
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