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Australian Firm Sues Anti-Spammer

In what is thought to be the first case of its kind, an Australian direct marketing company is suing an anti-spam activist that the company alleges got it listed on a spam-blocking site, disrupting its business.

T3 Direct, Perth, claims that the actions of Joseph John 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.

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

E-mail systems are privately owned and run with no guarantee of delivery.

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. A writ of summons was filed May 24 against McNicol.

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

“This page is dedicated to the fight against Australia's LARGEST Spam organisation and the man behind this growing list of companies he hides behind, WAYNE MANSFIELD,” the site reads.

DM News contacted Mansfield, director of T3, late last week by e-mail. He had not answered questions as of deadline yesterday.

It is unclear whether T3 sends unsolicited bulk commercial e-mail. However, its privacy policy says in part, “We collect e-mail contact addresses from various publicly available sources and other marketing promotions.”

In the past, e-mail marketers who have believed themselves wrongly listed by spam-blocking services have gone after the list maintainer to get their IP addresses removed.

In October 2001, Mail Abuse Prevention System LLC, Redwood City, CA, settled with Experian eMarketing in a blocklisting scuffle, damaging MAPS' reputation among anti-spammers.

As a result, SPEWS and other so-called blocklist maintainers differ from MAPS in several key areas.

For one, SPEWS claims to be faster at listing sources suspected of spam. “Most spam advisory and blocking systems work after the fact,” SPEWS' home page reads. “There is a time lag between the spammer setting up shop, spamming millions, and getting netblocks listed by these systems. SPEWS identifies known spammers and spam operations, listing them as soon as they start, sometimes even before they start spamming.”

What's more, SPEWS claims it doesn't employ a nomination process where people from outside the organization nominate IP addresses to be blocked.

“Entries in SPEWS are made by the people who run SPEWS for their own blocking and filtering needs,” the site reads. “It is provided to the rest of the Internet as an educational tool, or an opinion to use if anyone wishes.”

SPEWS, a nonprofit, lists no contact information.

DM News has e-mailed questions to lawyers for McNicol and T3. They were unanswered at deadline.

Meanwhile, anti-spammers are setting up a legal defense fund for McNicol. The effort reportedly has received worldwide interest.

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