A US judge has denied an order that would have suspended the domain name for The Spamhaus Project, averting a potential quagmire over how US legal rulings apply across the global Internet.
Spamhaus, a group of computer security experts based in London, creates a database used by security vendors to block unsolicited bulk email, known as spam.
Last month, an email marketing company, e360 Insight LLC, won an $11.7 million judgement against Spamhaus, with the ruling also calling for Spamhaus to remove e360 from its blacklists.
Spamhaus, which has been sued in the US several times, typically ignores the rulings. It says US courts do not have jurisdiction over the group as it’s based in the UK. Spamhaus maintains that e360's email constitutes spam and violates UK law.
The US lawsuits against Spamhaus typically end there, but earlier this month e360 raised the stakes. On October 6 it asked the US court to force the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) and Spamhaus's domain registrar, Tucows, to suspend its domain name.
The request sparked speculation that Icann, which is subject to US law, would be required to enforce that law internationally by, for example, shutting down a foreign website. Icann said later that even if a court did order it to shut down a domain, it couldn't do that since that power lies with individual registrars.
Judge Charles P. Kocoras wrote in his denial of e360's request that cutting off all of Spamhaus's activities would "not correspond to the gravity of the offending conduct”.
Spamhaus chief executive Steve Linford said a ruling the other way would have been alarming, particularly to governments concerned that the US has held administrative control over the Internet through ICANN for too long.
"Of course, we are extremely relieved that the judge has ruled in this way," said Linford.