Legal Threat Looms Over Spammers

By Debra Donston  |  Posted 2002-09-02

eWeek Labs recent special report on spam examined a number of ways to at least slow the flood of spam, including blacklists and filtering software. A new service from Habeas offers another way: haiku.

What? Youre wondering how a 17-syllable poem can stop spam? It all has to do with copyrights and trademarks. The Habeas Sender Warranted Email service trademarks and copyrights a unique set of lines—including the haiku in question—embedded in the headers of outgoing mail. The service is the brainchild of attorney and Habeas CEO Anne Mitchell, former legal affairs director for the Mail Abuse Prevention System, who last week spoke with our very own Spencer F. Katt.

Companies subscribing to the service—for $200 per year—modify their e-mail software to add the additional text to the header. Companies using the Habeas service can set up software to filter mail without the header, and spammers who improperly use the Habeas "warrant mark" can be prosecuted under trademark and copyright law. The service is free to individuals and ISPs.

The service is not without issues: Can Habeas really prosecute all the spammers turned in by users? And how could a large company filter on the header info without filtering out several legitimate messages? However, in the last week, I must have gotten 50 messages telling me how to create a paycheck with my computer. And thats just the tip of the spam-berg. Anything that will give the "businesspeople" sending that junk pause is worth a look. For more information, go to

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