Anti-Spam Lawyer: Suit Could Be 'Body Blow'

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Australian direct marketer T3 Direct's lawsuit against anti-spammer Joseph McNicol could hinder Internet users' freedom of speech and severely damage spam-blocking services, according to McNicol's lawyer.


"For the plaintiff to be successful would have a chilling effect on the freedom of Internet users to complain about spam," Jeremy Malcolm said in an e-mail exchange with DM News. "This in turn would be a body blow to the effectiveness of blocking services, which are one of the only weapons ISPs and Internet users have against the increasing onslaught of spam."


The problem then would grow so out of control that people would stop using e-mail, he said.


T3, Perth, claims that the actions of McNicol resulted in an unfounded complaint being sent to Spam Prevention Early Warning System, or SPEWS, and that as a result, T3's servers were listed on SPEWS.org.


McNicol aired his views about the company on the Web at www.vtgts.com/auspam.htm.


SPEWS.org maintains a list of IP addresses it believes to be sources of spam that some Internet service providers use to block unwanted e-mail from their systems.


T3 is suing McNicol for $43,750 Australian (about $24,800 U.S.), accusing him of preventing T3 from sending e-mail to its clients and preventing it from sending e-mail on behalf of its clients to their lists.


T3 is suing for the money to replace blocked IP addresses, technicians' labor costs, the cost of a new server it claims it was forced to buy and the loss of income it claims to have suffered over a 20-day period.


This is thought to be the first case of its kind in which a marketer has gone after an individual contending that the individual is responsible for getting it listed on an e-mail blocking service.


It is unclear whether T3 is a spammer.


T3 has declined comment through its lawyers.


"I am afraid that my client's instructions at this point are not to make any comments to the media as the subject is being followed intensely and emotionally by the Internet community and any comments may prove counterproductive to the issues which are relevant," Raymond Tan of Tan and Tan Lawyers, Perth, said in an e-mail.


Meanwhile, Malcolm said that McNicol denies having tipped SPEWS off to T3. Malcolm also contends that SPEWS doesn't take complaints from the public. Copy on SPEWS.org supports this claim.


Moreover, Malcolm contends that even if McNicol did complain to SPEWS, it still does not amount to an unlawful interference with T3's business.


Also, Malcolm said, McNicol is challenging T3's claim that it had to replace a server.


Malcolm said that McNicol will countersue, claiming T3's suit is frivolous.


So far, a legal defense fund set up for McNicol has received "tens of thousands of dollars" in small private donations and corporate pledges, Malcolm said.


He is seeking to have the suit thrown out of court.


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