More Trouble For MAPS: Staff Lawyers Resign

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Embattled Mail Abuse Prevention System LLC's legal staff has resigned, DM News has learned.


This comes as the anti-spam group wrestles with negative Internet discussion-group publicity surrounding a lawsuit it filed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, last month. The suit alleges that former employee Gordon Fecyk made off with company property -- a dialup user list [DUL] created while he worked there.


MAPS, Redwood City, CA, has seven employees.


Anne Mitchell, MAPS' director of legal and public affairs, confirmed by e-mail yesterday that she and another MAPS staff attorney have resigned, but would not say why.


"I really can't comment, other than to confirm that yes, I have resigned, and yes, so has the other attorney in the office," she said. She would not name the other attorney.


One source who knows Mitchell said it is unlikely the resignations involve MAPS' lawsuit against Fecyk.


"If she were going to resign in protest, she would have done it a long time ago," the source said.


An e-mail to MAPS for comment was not immediately returned.


Once revered in anti-spam Internet discussion groups, MAPS' status in those groups has declined since it began charging for its services in July 2001.


Some participants in the groups do not understand that MAPS must meet expenses to remain viable, said the source, who requested anonymity. "Some of them have been sitting behind their computers for too long."


As a result, some anti-spammers view the suit against Fecyk as more evidence that MAPS has gone from an organization dedicated to fighting for a good cause to a heartless corporate entity.


MAPS reportedly hired Fecyk in January 2000 to build a DUL -- a list of IP addresses used to block spam -- similar to one he was building independently at the time. MAPS alleges that when Fecyk resigned in February 2002, he tried to set up a competing DUL service using the list created while he was a MAPS employee.


On May 7, a Winnipeg judge ruled in MAPS' favor to continue an injunction barring Fecyk from using the DUL and an associated Web site, among other things.


The law firm representing Fecyk in Winnipeg has not returned calls for comment.


Former MAPS executive director Nick Nicholas has published a long attack on MAPS concerning the lawsuit against Fecyk at Chickenboner.com.


"Since I hired Gordon, and I failed to adequately protect him by spelling out all his rights in an employment agreement, I feel a responsibility to say something *now* about the Fecyk matter," Nicholas said in an e-mail to DM News. "MAPS wants it swept under the carpet. I don't feel it would be honest of me to remain silent."


Meanwhile, some have speculated that MAPS' client base dropped when it began charging, and that it may no longer be able to afford staff attorneys. However, multiple sources close to MAPS dispute claims that the client base has dropped.


"When MAPS began charging for the service, the demand for contracts overwhelmed them," said Steven Linford, founder of London, UK-based Spamhaus.org, a spam-blocking service similar to MAPS. "They worked flat-out, processing contracts for months, which gives a good indication of the volume of mail administrators worldwide using MAPS today." Multiple well-placed sources have verified Linford's claim.


However, it is unclear whether MAPS' income is enough to cover its legal fees. MAPS calls for donations for a legal fund on its Web site at Mail-Abuse.org.


Meanwhile, though direct marketers generally take a dim view of MAPS, not everyone in marketing is applauding its troubles.


"I've been a longtime supporter of MAPS as well as other privacy groups and feel the industry has not rallied behind them enough," said Michael Mayor, president/chief operating officer of New York e-mail list development and management firm NetCreations. "The industry has done a miserable job of self-regulating on the whole. If these groups fail in their overall mission, which is to protect our end users rights, we all lose."


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