Libel Suit Against Spamhaus Moves Forward
By Ken Magill
Anti-spam outfit Spamhaus is being sued in the UK by two marketers for alleged libel, the Magill Report has learned.
The suit was filed in July. After a hearing on Dec. 12 in which Spamhaus moved to have the suit tossed, Justice Mark Warby issued a ruling on Jan. 27 allowing it to move forward.
Entrepreneurs Craig Ames and Robert McGee claim, among other things, that last year they were wrongly placed on Spamhaus’s Register of Known Spam Offenders, or ROKSO list, and placed at the top of its Top 10 World’s Worst Spammers list.
Ames and McGee contend they have substantial business reputations in England and Wales that Spamhaus has seriously damaged with its postings on them.
They also claim Spamhaus misused private information by publishing their addresses, according to the ruling. McGee also reportedly claims Spamhaus committed copyright infringement by posting his photo.
Spamhaus maintains lists of what its volunteers deem to be sources of spam. Many email inbox providers reference Spamhaus as at least part of their algorithm to determine whether or not incoming email is spam.
A listing on Spamhaus can result in serious email deliverability troubles.
In attempting to get the suit dismissed, Spamhaus argued, among other things, that Ames and McGee do not have a substantial business reputation in the UK and that their libel claim is an abuse of process.
Justice Warby ruled otherwise.
Ironically, Spamhaus’s reputation as a widely respected organization whose word is taken seriously worked against it in this ruling.
“The evidence makes clear that Spamhaus has gained a reputation for accuracy and reliability,” the ruling said. “The defendants' evidence describes the organisation as ‘one of the most widely used sources of information about known spammers worldwide … relied on by over 2,500 ISPs’, ‘enormously respected and influential’. These matters are relevant to an assessment of the likely impact of being named. So is the evidence of Mr Ames that he knows from his own experience in the industry that Spamhaus is ‘well known, widely used and well respected.’
“I have concluded that each of the claimants has a real prospect of establishing that publication of the words complained of within the jurisdiction during 2014 has caused serious harm to his reputation,” the ruling said.
This is not the first time Spamhaus has been sued.
In 2006, Dave Linhardt, principal of marketing firm e360 Insight, sued Spamhaus in Illinois alleging tortuous interference and defamation. Linhardt got an $11.7 million default judgment when Spamhaus representatives failed to show up in court.
Five years later after much back and forth, the award was dropped to $3.
In 2003, a group calling itself EMarketersAmerica sued Spamhaus in Florida but withdrew the suit before it could go to discovery.