Sue a Spoofer Today

Spoofers forge e-mail headers to make spam look respectable. ISIPP wants
to make them pay.

The Institute for Spam and Internet Public Policy (ISIPP) launched a new
service to help businesses whose domain names have been highjacked by
spammers. ISIPP helps them evaluate and take charge of suing spoofers for
trademark infringement.

Spoofing is the practice of forging an e-mail header so that it appears
that the e-mail comes from somewhere other than the actual source. It’s a
tactic used by spammers to get past black lists and fool recipients into
opening unsolicited commercial e-mails.

Phishers also spoof domain names, as well as URLs and legitimate Web sites, to trick people into divulging
passwords, credit card numbers and other personal information.

Individuals and businesses don’t have the right to sue spammers under the
CAN-SPAM Act, the national law that became effective January 1, 2004, said
Anne Mitchell, president and CEO of the Institute. “Trademark law gives
these individual businesses that right of action and can provide immediate
restraining orders and freezing of assets.”

ISIPP maintains the Spam Law Enforcement Database and the ISIPP E-mail
Accreditation Database, sponsors conferences on e-mail and consults with
government and businesses on public policy and strategies to fight spam.

Spoofing can cause worlds of woe for the businesses whose domain names
are used. Their own mail servers may be overloaded with bounced spam; they
may be listed on other companies’ and ISPs’ block lists, so that legitimate
e-mail from the company is rejected; and it can anger customers who think the company spammed them.

ISIPP will help Internet business owners evaluate whether their domain
names could be trademarked. Mitchell said one criterion is whether the
domain is an online business, rather than a site that provides information
about a traditional one. The non-profit will help with the trademark
registrant process, and then walk the company through the process of suing
the spoofer for trademark infringement. Services include Internet forensics
to help identify the culprits and attorney referrals.

“We advise that businesses get the domain name registered as a trademark
because it’s good business sense, and also it will allow them to sue people
who spoof your domain,” Mitchell said.

She said there are several advantages to suing for trademark
infringement, rather than spam. Trademark law is more easily understood, and
there are statutory damages for infringement.

Most important, though, is that trademark laws let a company sue not only
the infringer but an entity on whose behalf the infringement was done. While
it can be tough to track down spammers, sellers of the products they
advertise are relatively easy to find.

“You can sue who ever is sponsoring the spam. And they, in turn, will
tell you who the spammer is,” she said.

“This tactic gives individual business owners back some of the redress
that CAN-SPAM took away,” Mitchell said. “We should have figured this out a
lot sooner.”

News Around the Web