Sunday, September 17, 2006

Rule #1: Spammers are stupid

A post on the Sunbelt Blog caught my attention today: Spammer guy gets $11 mill judgement against Spamhaus, no one cares. That's more interesting than the title will make it seem - spammers rarely (if ever) win anything in court. So what made this one win? Intelligence? Legitimacy?

There are several unwritten rules about spammers, that most people in IT can tell you. The first one is the title of this blog post: Spammers are stupid. Face it: sending millions of people email messages they don't even want in the first place, selling stuff that doesn't work or doesn't even exist, hardly sounds like a good business model. I admit that there are spammer success stories on news sites sometimes, about a spammer who made millions, against all odds, while staying reasonably morally correct ('I never send adult-oriented bulk email. That's just wrong. What if children see it?'). What you don't read on those sites, are the thousands of stories of spammers who don't make a dime with their 'business'. Sure, there may be a handful of experienced spammers who make a few hundred bucks a month and can afford a second car, but even if they run a profit they'll stay under the radar, since spamming is becoming more and more illegal by virtue of some reasonably effective laws in a handful of states in America.

Yes, I know that I said 'few hundred bucks a month' while I mentioned success stories earlier about spammers making millions. I did this for a reason, which brings us to the second rule about spammers, as well as taking us back to the original story: Spammers lie.

The lawsuit mentioned at the beginning of this post is about a spammer called David Linhardt, who is particularly whiny and stupid. After Spamhaus blacklisted his spam-spewing domains a few times, he sued them under Illinois law - and he won $11 million by default judgment, since Spamhaus wasn't there to defend itself.

You want to know why? Because Spamhaus is located in the UK. Where US law does not apply. Linhardt may be happy about the ruling, but he won't be able to collect a dime from Spamhaus unless he files the same suit in UK court, and wins. The same goes for the removal of his domains from the ROKSO list (a blacklist with the 200 worst spammers in the world). All this is about as likely as the Earth reversing its rotation at this very moment. Because Linhardt is stupid, and lied to the judge in Illinios by saying that Spamhaus did business in Illinois and therefore fell within Illinois jurisdiction. Yep, he lied in US court. I told you spammers are stupid.

This is Darwinism at its finest. At one point this Linhardt douchebag will pick up a gun, load it, aim for his foot - and shoot himself in the nads.

Read all the articles for yourself:
CNet: Spam fighter hit with $11.7 million judgement.
Slashdot: Spamhaus Ignores $11.7M Judgement
Spamhaus: The offending ROKSO record on Linhardt (this includes several of the hilarious complaint emails Linhardt sent in response to his spam being blocked)
Spamhaus: Legal answer to David Linhardt

Oct 9 update: Uh oh. The e360insight wants the judge to order ICANN to take down the domain. And since ICANN is located in the US, this could get ugly.

Oct 12 update: Well, it could have. ICANN refuses to take down the domain, saying it can't - only the domain registrar can! Who that is? It's Tucows. And guess where they are located: Canada. Where US law doesn't apply. ZING!

Oct 20 update: Phew - it looked like the judge was going to pull the domain anyway since ICANN was responsible for it, but he did not want to 'impose a sanction that does not correspond to the gravity of the offending conduct'. Also, it seems SpamHaus now has wised up and is now represented by Jenner & Block.

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