DTI pressed to use EC directive to outlaw spam

Bill Goodwin

The Government has come under pressure to outlaw e-mail spamming this week after a UKInternet company won a landmark...

Bill Goodwin

The Government has come under pressure to outlaw e-mail spamming this week after a UKInternet company won a landmark victory in the US courts.

Lawyers urged the Department of Trade & Industry to use a European directive on electronic marketing, to crack down on spamming, following the victory by BiblioTech.

The Government is considering how to implement the Distance Selling Directive, that gives governments the choice of controlling spamming by allowing individuals either to opt-out or opt-in to receiving unsolicited e-mail.

But the settlement of the first Internet spamming case brought by a European company last week will put pressure on the UK Government to adopt the stricter opt-in approach, lawyers said.

"The case signals that the Internet community would really benefit from an opt-in approach," said BiblioTech's lawyer, Eduardo Ustaran, of Paisner & Co. "Junk mail at home is annoying but at the end of the day we can recycle paper. Electronic mailing does create a block for many small service providers and Internet users," he said.

BiblioTech secured an out-of-court settlement after a three-year battle with Sam Kuri, who sent out millions of spam e-mails offering printer cartridges for sale.

Kuri used a technique known as spoofing to give the impression that the e-mails came from BiblioTech and other Internet service providers. BiblioTech's systems crashed when hundreds of thousands of incorrectly addressed e-mails were re-routed back to BiblioTech.

After hiring lawyers to chase Kuri across the US, BiblioTech was able to reach a ground-breaking settlement that protects not only BiblioTech but any organisation or individual that could receive spam e-mails from Kuri in the future.

Under the agreement, Kuri has agreed to pay $1,000 (£625) plus costs to any organisation or individual that receives unsolicited or spoof e-mails from him. Although the agreement does not set a legal precedent, it is likely to inspire similar settlements in future spamming cases.

"Most companies would have settled with an agreement not to spam them anymore. We took the view that he should not spam anyone else," said Nabil Shabaka, managing director of BiblioTech. "Basically there is a principle at stake."

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