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29 Jan 2008
At last week's meeting, the ICANN board uncharacteristially did something and voted to make their fee of 20 cents per domain-year nonrefundable. They expect this to stop both domain tasting and NSI's frontrunning, which it certainly will. It's not clear when this change will go into effect, but it might be within a month.
It's items 5 and 6 in the draft minutes on ICANN's web site. (The ICANN staff uncharacteristically published the minutes soon after the meeting, another refreshing change.)
I wonder if Google will now undo their new rule about no ads on domains less than five days old.
23 Jan 2008
E360 Insight is a small bulk emailing house near Chicago run by David Linhardt with a chronic spam problem. He gained fame last year due to a meretricious suit against Spamhaus involving strange twists and turns, mostly due to Spamhaus getting some dreadful legal advice. My September blog entry described the current status of this case.Last Tuesday he filed a remarkable suit against giant cable ISP Comcast. I have just read a PDF copy of the complaint (courtesy of spamsuite.com) and each page is more amazing than the last.
13 Jan 2008
Well, I read the indictment (available here from Spamhaus.) It's a long litany of criminal behavior, primarily pump and dump stock fraud of a long list of penny stocks from the US and China. Ralsky is described as the "chief executive officer and overall leader" of the scheme, and it goes on to list fifteen others, including "mailer 2", an unindicted co-conspirator in Seattle who is presumably Robert Soloway.
The thing that strikes me about this indictment is that although it includes a lot of CAN SPAM charges, everything Ralsky and Co. did was already illegal under conventional fraud and computer tampering laws. Lying about who you are to tout worthless stock is already illegal, hijacking other people's computers is illegal, and collecting the money for fraudulent actions is illegal, too. Sure, they're throwing the book at them for CAN SPAM violations about fraudulent mail headers and domain registrations, but by my reading, they'd have just as strong a case without CAN SPAM, and the conventional charges will be a lot easier to explain to a judge and a jury.
So it's a relief that Ralsky, who spent the better part of a decade as the country's highest profile spammer, is finally headed back to jail. (He's been there before, for insurance fraud.) But it's yet another reminder that the US needs effective anti-spam laws, and CAN SPAM isn't one.
In August 2005, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit issued its long awaited decision in the U.S. v. Councilman case. This case has an extremely peculiar set of facts and a peculiar history to match, and although I agree with the court's decision, I'm not too encouraged by the history of the case.Everyone apparently agreed to the facts of the case, but see the update at the end of this article: Brad Councilman was an executive at a company called Interloc which ran an online service for used bookstores, which among other things provided the stores with e-mail accounts. (Interloc is long gone, merged into the larger Alibris.) In 1998 Councilman allegedly decided to do a little surrepetitious market research by adjusting the procmail script that delivered the stores' e-mail to make copies of mail from Amazon.com in a mailbox that Councilman and other Interloc employees read, and they did indeed copy and read thousands of messages. Councilman was in the unusual position of being both an ISP for these stores and their competitor. In 2001, Councilman was indicted for violating the Wiretap Act, by intercepting electronic communications, namely the e-mail from Amazon. Councilman's lawyers came up with a clever defense arguing that what he did wasn't against the law.
04 Jan 2008
Alan Ralsky, widely believed to be one of the world's most prolific spammers, was indicted by the US Federal government along with ten other people according to a press release the government sent out yesterday.
I'll write more on this in a few days after I get back from Japan and have a chance to look at case documents.
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