by CIO Staff

Spamhaus Hit With Shutdown Threat by U.S. Court

Oct 09, 20063 mins

Facade of government court building
Credit: Thinkstock

A U.S. court has threatened to shut down the Spamhaus Project, a volunteer-run antispam service, for ignoring a US$11.7 million judgment against it.

In a proposed court order dated Friday, Judge Charles Kocoras of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois calls on the organizations responsible for registering the Internet address to suspend the organization’s Internet service. Both the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and Tucows, the registrar, are named in the order.

The proposed order follows a Sept. 13 ruling in which Spamhaus was required to pay damages and stop listing an e-mail marketing company called E360Insight in its database of known spammers. Spamhaus, based in London, has said that it ignored the judgment because it cannot be enforced in the United Kingdom.

Though the order is not yet final and may be part of “the judge’s gambit to get Spamhaus to come back to the table,” there is nothing to prevent it from ultimately being finalized, said Matthew Prince, chief executive officer with Unspam Technologies, and an adjunct professor of law with the John Marshall Law School, in a blog posting.

“In other words, there may be some time before ICANN is formally ordered to shut down the Spamhaus domain, but make no mistake … ICANN’s lawyers will be considering their options,” he wrote.

ICANN is the nonprofit organization set up to manage the domain name system of the Internet. It is based in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Whether ICANN would comply is unclear. The organization did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

But shutting down Spamhaus is certainly a possibility, according to Prince. “I don’t know what ICANN will do, but I bet they’ll at least consider complying,” he wrote.

If ICANN does shut Spamhaus down, it could be bad news for e-mail users. Spam now makes up about 90 percent of all e-mail, and Spamhaus believes that it helps block between 8 billion and 10 billion of these messages per day.

Spamhaus’s spammer blacklist is used by several technology vendors, including Microsoft.

Spamhaus could not be reached for comment, but the organization has said that it intends to appeal the ruling. “The Illinois ruling shows that U.S. courts can be bamboozled by spammers with ease, and that no proof is required in order to obtain judgments over clearly foreign entities,” Spamhaus said in a note on its website.

“Spamhaus is, however, concerned at how far a U.S. court will go before asking itself if it has jurisdiction, and is intending to appeal the ruling in order to stamp out further attempts by spammers to abuse the U.S. court system in this way.”

-Robert McMillan, IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)