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Spamming and Spoofing

Matthew L. Seidl v. Greentree Mortgage Company, United States District Court for the District of Colorado, Civil Action Number 97-WY-2087-AJ

Summary

In this action, the plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages under Colorado consumer protection statutes and common law counts of trespass and invasion of privacy arising from the defendant spammers use the plaintiffs e-mail address as the falsified return address on its spam. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this case is the counterclaim and third party complaint which alleges that the plaintiff’s ownership of the domain name “localhost.com” and the administrator e-mail address “Nobody@localhost.com” are, in essence, a conspiracy to extort money from bulk e-mailers who frequently use that domain and address when spoofing.

Analysis

Since May 14, 1995, Seidl, through his business, “Wraith Interprises,” has owned the registered domain name “localhost.com.” Seidl’s system uses the administrative address “nobody@localhost.com” to forward e-mail received by the domain to Seidl, the system administrator.

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In January 1997, Greentree Mortgage Company, a New Jersey based entity, through a bulk e-mailer, sent spam to several thousand people, advertising Greentree’s mortgage services. Unbeknownst to Seidl, the spam message “spoofed” his domain name - the “from” address on the spam appeared as “nobody@localhost.com” and the return path, the numeric code which directs undeliverable messages and responses sent using the “reply” function, was also altered to direct such replies to “nobody@localhost.com.”

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During the days and weeks that followed Seidl’s system was overrun by some 7,000 messages using some 31 megabytes of memory. According to the Verified Complaint filed by Seidl his system was continuously occupied by the task of processing these replies for three days. Early on, Seidl telephoned and requested that the mailing be halted. The defendant admitted being involved with the sending of the spam but refused to take any action to halt the spam or compensate Seidl for his damages."

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In his Complaint, Seidl seeks compensatory and punitive damages under various Colorado statutes regulating unfair and deceptive trade practices. Seidl also seeks recovery under theories of trespass, negligence and invasion of privacy alleging that Greentree knew it had no right to “localhost.com” domain name and that Greentree could have easily determined that the domain was registered to Seidl through Internic.."

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Greentree answered, counterclaimed and filed a third party complaint. Greentree’s RICO and libel counterclaim alleges that Seidl has registered the “nobody@localhost.com” domain for the express purpose of “extorting” money from bulk e-mailers who commonly use that domain name as a return address when spamming. Greentree has also sued Seidl’s attorney on the theory that she participated in this alleged scheme. By way of third party complaint, Greentree sued Mark Van Keuren of Modern Computing Concepts, alleging that he deceived Greentree by “spoofing” Seidl’s registered domain name without authorization..."

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The suit remains unresolved. Greentree and Seidl have both retained experts. Expert reports and other information pertinent to this case are available on Seidl’s web page.


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