As Spam Gets Worse, Seek Solace in Verse

By Spencer F. Katt  |  Posted 2002-08-26

Spencer was pleasantly surprised when he spoke to Anne Mitchell, Esq., former director of legal affairs for Mail Abuse Prevention System, or MAPS, to hear that she was now CEO of an anti-spam startup called Habeas. Spencer knew Mitchell was a savvy legal eagle from his investigation of the numerous court battles with which MAPS is constantly besieged, so the Furry One was intrigued when she told him how her new company plans to stop spam—using poetry and the law.

Frustrated that current laws dont really define whats illegal spam and what isnt, Mitchells company intends to use copyright infringement law as its spam shield.

Habeas offers users a warrant mark that is embedded in the headers of outgoing e-mail that contains a three-line haiku poem and some accompanying copyright and trademark information. The copyright covers legal protection for the poetry, and the trademark covers the rest of the info in the header. Habeas can then vigorously prosecute, penalize or seek injunctions against spammers who improperly use and abuse the headers under trademark and copyright laws.

Using Habeas in conjunction with existing services, such as SpamAssassin or Mail-Filters, the company hopes users will feel confident enough to set their filters at higher and more sensitive thresholds without worrying about losing legitimate e-mail.

"That way, an online medical journal would be assured its article on Viagra would actually get through to subscribers," quipped Mitchell, "and not be sidetracked as a false positive. Habeas is unique because its trying to solve the other side of the equation—rather than just identifying spam, were trying to identify the mail you want."

The company, which launched last week, has signed several companies for its service, including Microsofts WebTV and Outblaze, a Hong Kong-based messaging technology provider. The Habeas warrant mark has also been built into Mail-Filters.coms SpamCure and SpamRepellent products.

Although enterprises that participate will be charged an annual licensing fee, Mitchell told El Gato that Habeas defies comparison with anti-spam outfits that offer certification to bulk mail houses and corporations because Habeas also offers its mark freely to individual users and ISPs.

"Mm, lawyers writing poetry," mused the Mouser. "Maybe theres actually hope for civilization after all."

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