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Judge Rules That I Own Slashdot

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the now-wait-a-minute dept.

Spam 386

Bennett Haselton wrote in with this weeks amusing and shocking story of high finance, judicial discretion, and oh so much more... he writes "People still ask me if I make enough money suing spammers in Small Claims court to make it worthwhile. I say: What about the entertainment value? Recently I received an e-mail with the subject line: 'Reminder: Link exchange with your site http://slashdot.org' Finally, I thought, someone else who agrees that I'm carrying the site's entire success on my shoulders. I even hurried off to check the registration of the slashdot.org domain to see if they had made the transfer official in honor of my contributions, but apparently the domain is still being squatted by some outfit calling itself "SourceForge"." I'm shocked that a legitimate businessman would make such an error. Read on to see what Bennett does about it.

So I returned to the e-mail, which began, "Dear Webmaster". Scrolling through it, I found the part that I was looking for (I munged the sender's URL slightly, to avoid crashing the poor guy's server from all the traffic I'm sure he's already getting):

As you know, reciprocal linking benefits both of us by raising our search rankings and generating more traffic to both of our sites. Please post a link to my site as follows:

Title: Work At Home Business Opportunities | Online Career Training
URL: http://www.theeashblahblah.com/
Description: Your Source, and Resource for starting a Home Business, or Growing the One You're In.

Of course I am always interested in growing the business that I'm in, which is why I served him with papers a few days later under RCW 19.190, the Washington anti-spam law which prohibits e-mails with a "false or misleading subject line".

OK, technically at this point suing spammers in Small Claims is really more of a hobby. I still think that the real future of spammer-suing is in federal court, if you can amass enough damages against a particular company to reach the threshold of $75,000 to bring a federal lawsuit. The idea is not to go after the bottom-feeders who are sending the actual spams from their Mom's basement, but to follow the money and see who is ultimately buying the leads. You can respond to mortgage spams by entering a drop-box phone number and a made-up name, waiting to see who calls you, and then telling them that the person who sold them that lead is generating them illegally and that they shouldn't buy leads from them any more. Next I'll probably try responding to some ads for pills or other shady products by using a temporary one-time-use credit card number that's only authorized up to the amount of the purchase, to see which companies are doing the sales on the back end. (The checkout forms for those pill-hawking pages rarely say the name of the company that will end up on your statement, but the charge on your card has to be from someone.) The only types of spam I can think of where "following the money" wouldn't work, would be pump-and-dump stock spams -- in that case, the beneficiary could be anyone holding stock in the company. The SEC can freeze trading in stocks that are promoted in pump-and-dump but it's still no guarantee of catching the guilty party -- even someone who buys a lot of the company might just be an "innocent" third party who knows it's a scam but hopes to cash in on the price spike (although FAQs suggest that this strategy doesn't work). But for other types of spam, it's already been well documented how you can track it to the financiers without even trying to identify the actual person who pressed "Send".

Of course there's another reason why you'd rather be in federal court. Small Claims anti-spammer cases may not shed a lot of light on the economics behind spam, but they are instructive for what to expect if you ever appear before a District Court judge for any other reason. In this trial, heard by Judge Judith Eiler on November 5, 2007, the defendant telephoned in to the court hearing and said several times that this was a "personal e-mail from me to him" and should be exempt from the anti-spam laws. I said that I didn't think an e-mail with the subject "Link exchange with your site http://slashdot.org" could be considered "personal" since nobody who knew me would think that was my website, and in any case, personal e-mails tend not to start with "Dear Webmaster". But Judge Eiler ruled that this was a personal e-mail after all:

"Um, spam, these are anti-spam laws, which imply that they are mail just sent out in huge bulks, which would be the antithesis of a personal e-mail. And here he puts his name, in fact this is the person that you directly sued rather than somebody that's in a corporation or a company. The court does think that there's some indication that this is a personal-type e-mail. While it may have gone out to a number of people, it doesn't have quite the earmarks."
mp3 here

Below is a copy of the e-mail that the judge was holding when she ruled that it "didn't have the earmarks" of a bulk e-mail:

To: bennett@peacefire.org Subject: Reminder: Link exchange with your site http://slashdot.org X-PHP-Script: www.theeashblahblah.com/linkmachine/auto.php for 87.102.22.100 Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2007 09:34:26 -0400 From: Roderick Eash Reply-to: reash@tconl.com Message-ID: X-Priority: 3 X-Mailer: PHPMailer [version 1.72] Errors-To: reash@tconl.com MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary="b1_b43cabef83c9f9123db7a78ef9a73362" Dear Webmaster, My name is Roderick Eash, and I run the web site Work At Home Business Opportunities | Online Career Training: http://www.theeashblahblah.com/ The other day I wrote you to let you know I'm very interested in exchanging links. I'm sending this reminder in case you didn't receive my first letter. I've gone ahead and posted a link to your site, on this page: http://www.theeashblahblah.com/linkmachine/resources/resources_home_based_business_41.html As you know, reciprocal linking benefits both of us by raising our search rankings and generating more traffic to both of our sites. Please post a link to my site as follows: Title: Work At Home Business Opportunities | Online Career Training URL: http://www.theeashblahblah.com/ Description: Your Source, and Resource for starting a Home Business, or Growing the One You're In. Once you've posted the link, let me know the URL of the page that it's on, by entering it in this form: http://www.theeashblahblah.com/linkmachine/resources/link_exchange.php?ua=_ua9&site_index=MTg4MTgwMjc%3D You can also use that form to make changes to the text of the link to your site, if you'd like. Thank you very much, Roderick Eash

Every time I write about a spam case, I swear it's the last time. I wonder if judges read that and say to each other, "I'll bet we can get him to do it again." With this ruling, if the subject line "Link exchange with your site http://slashdot.org" is not "false or misleading", does that mean I can claim slashdot.org as my site after all?

So I don't think that suing spammers in Small Claims will make much difference in the long run. But the odds are that you might have a case come before a Distict Court judge at some point in your life. Consider that the same type of judge who thought the message above was a "personal e-mail", might someday be deciding whether you're responsible for $10,000 in damage to someone's car, or whether there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you were guilty of rape, or whether you get to keep custody of your child. There's no joke here, just something I thought you should keep in mind.

So I'm hardly a victim, but it could have been worse; I could have gotten a spam -- excuse me, a personal e-mail -- with a subject like "Your g1rl says you n3ed a b1gger m3mber". I would have been pissed if the judge had ruled that subject line was not misleading.

cancel ×

386 comments

well (5, Funny)

normuser (1079315) | more than 6 years ago | (#21408949)

I for one welcome our new slashdot overlord.

sorry, I had to do it.

Re:well (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21408975)

sorry, I had to do it.

No. No, you didn't actually.

Re:well (5, Funny)

Garridan (597129) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409089)

Yes, he did. Our new slashdot overlord command him to.

SPERM CASE? (3, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409137)

Is this something you need to expand, strengthen and elongate upon?

Re:well (4, Funny)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409491)

Ah, that's what I love about Slashdot:

Score:-1, Insightful

Re:well (4, Funny)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409489)

All your slashdot are belong to us!

In Soviet Russia spam judges slashdot!

I got nothing.

This entire story (4, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21408957)

reads like the body of a SPAM message - divorced of context and nearly indecipherable syntax.

Re:This entire story (1)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409085)

I was wondering if I was the only one that came in in the middle of the story, as well. So, dear editor, mind filling us in on the inside joke?

Writer's strike! (3, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409181)

This is what happens when you try to both write and direct...

Re:Writer's strike! (2, Funny)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409551)

This is what we get for the writers being on strike.

Re:This entire story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409381)

Thank you. I had thought it was just me and the fact that I'm functioning (ha) on less than two hours' sleep.

Re:This entire story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409687)

If I was a judge, I'd make all of my rulings with one goal in mind: getting this idiot out of my court room as quickly as possible.

The judge ruled that this was personal email so that the case would end, and the submitter would go away.

Re:This entire story (5, Insightful)

rhizome (115711) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409793)

The judge ruled that this was personal email so that the case would end, and the submitter would go away.

So you're suggesting that the judge is corrupt and prejudicial and that this case was not decided on its merits.

Re:This entire story (-1, Offtopic)

0xABADC0DA (867955) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409773)

by Jeremiah Cornelius (137)
I love it how all the low-ids come out of the woodwork to discuss email and its spam problems... USENET, NNTP, nethack, vt52, and the finer points of X11 visual classes. Coincidence?

US Law is like that. (3, Informative)

Erris (531066) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409807)

[the story] reads like the body of a SPAM message - divorced of context and nearly indecipherable syntax.

That happens when you quote small claims court.

Let me simplify it. The author sued a small time spammer in small claims court. Audio, transcripts and original documents are provided for your contemplation, amusement and horror. The judge was clueless and the author worries that the judge may move up to where they can screw up more important cases. An interesting opinion about federal spam cases is also provided. The author is rightly frustrated and bitter.

Huh? (3, Insightful)

Ian McBeth (862517) | more than 6 years ago | (#21408971)

Can someone say this in English please?

Re:Huh? (5, Funny)

timster (32400) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409061)

Dumb judge rules that a spam message was a "personal e-mail" exempt from anti-spam laws on the basis that it was written as if the spammer knew the recipient. So watch out for dumb judges in your rape trial!

Re:Huh? (1)

Imaria (975253) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409375)

MOD UP PARENT That's the whole thing in two sentences, rather than a page of wordspew.

Spam (4, Insightful)

tonsofpcs (687961) | more than 6 years ago | (#21408981)

This article reads like most spam, very confusing and all over the place. What is the point?

Re:Spam (1, Insightful)

77Punker (673758) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409081)

I'm not certain, but I think the two main points are that
1. Filing lawsuits against spammers has great profit potential
2. Some judges are stupid and you will go to jail because of it

Re:Spam (4, Insightful)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409395)

I'm not certain, but I think the two main points are that
1. Filing lawsuits against spammers has great profit potential
2. Some judges are stupid and you will go to jail because of it

I believe that is pretty much the conclusion. It also highlights the issues with bulk directed e-mail as not being considered spam, since they are being addressed to the actual recipient in the 'to:' field, even if the rest of the e-mail is generic. It also shows that some spammers continue spamming because they know the loop-holes and there are plenty of judges acting on the word of the law, rather than the intent of the law.

Judges. (4, Interesting)

RingDev (879105) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409515)

The point is Judges will rule on what they know, regardless of the facts and laws at hand.

For example, earlier this year I had to go to court over a child support issue. My wife and I were not married when our son was born. Rest assured I was a dutiful father and paid for our housing, food, and as much of the related medical expenses as I could, but we were dirt poor. So we took advantage of a State aide plan to help single mothers afford proper child birthing care. My wife's insurance covered most of her costs, but 0% of the child's. So, three years later, we're married and happily raising our son, when I get a bill out of the blue for $2000. Apparently, my wife was suing me for child support and the State was nice enough to step in and help her with the lawsuit.

So after the usual pre-trial rituals, and a lot of research, I presented the Judge with a series of marriage and Tax laws that showed that regardless of our marital state at the time of childbirth, in our current situation, the State was limited in it's ability to collect.

The judge said, and I quote, "I am not familiar with those laws, so I am going to rule on the one I know." And summarily ordered me to pay $1600 to the State. Maybe a lawyer could have argued it better, but when they Judge just flat out told me that nothing I could present him with would be considered in his decision, I kinda lost hope and just paid the damn bill.

So in closing, 2 points:
1) Most Judges will take the easiest path available to make it through the 9-5. Even if it means ignoring the obvious.
2) If you are about to have a child out of wedlock in Wisconsin and you are receiving state benefits, get married. Regardless of whether you intend to stay married or not. Get the license, have the kid and flip the State the bird as they foot the bill and get to ask for a dime back. (note: this is not legal advice!)

-Rick

Re:Judges. (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409867)

If you are about to have a child out of wedlock in Wisconsin and you are receiving state benefits, get married. Regardless of whether you intend to stay married or not. Get the license, have the kid and flip the State the bird as they foot the bill and get to ask for a dime back. (note: this is not legal advice!)

-Rick
Man, I love this whole mentality, which drives people to hand out legal advice, and then insist that it's not legal advice. :D

I am totally confused (4, Funny)

rbanzai (596355) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409003)

Just what in blue blazes is his story about? I tried reading the whole thing and it still makes no sense to me. Who is this guy? What does he have to do with Slashdot? Is this just some kind of weird fiction that's supposed to be funny?

I'm baffled.

Re:I am totally confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409045)

The owner of Slashdot just spammed you.

Re:I am totally confused (2, Funny)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409119)

I get that bit. But who's this CmdrTaco chap.

Re:I am totally confused (1)

mkosmo (768069) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409113)

As am I... He goes on about spam messages and owning Slashdot? This article makes no sense and I think somebody needs to reread it... Or provide us some contextual clue we are missing.

Can somebody post a clear synopsis for those of us incapable of deciphering this story?

story explained: non obvious logical leap (4, Insightful)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409823)

What I gather is this:

As a hobby, this guy sues spammers. On a particular case, he has an email he received from a spammer, which he submits as evidence. The judge rules that the email is personal, not spam. That email contains "Link exchange with your site http://slashdot.org/ [slashdot.org] ", and the submitter interprets the judge's ruling to extremes. The email referred to Slashdot as a site supposedly owned by the recipient, and was "personal" according to the judge, therefore the recipient must be the actual owner of Slashdot.

Ok, so the judge got it wrong. Probably was being stubborn about the mistake too, and refusing to fix it or listen to reason, or so I would guess. What to do now? Go public!

Nothing to Read Here... (1)

charleste (537078) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409135)

My response was "uh. Hum." and my next thought was "who posted this?", and "Why did I just waste my time reading this undecipherable article..."

I'm probably wrong, but... (5, Informative)

paladinwannabe2 (889776) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409147)

My understanding is that Bennett Haselton sues people who spam him as a hobby. His stories are entertaining and show some of the difficulties in implementing a legislative solution to Spam- many judges he deals with would rather discard the case on some technicality than enforce the law. It's nice to see people standing up for themselves, even when they'd probably be better off ignoring it.

What happened in this particular case is some spammer claimed he owned Slashdot, he sued the spammer, and lost.

Re:I'm probably wrong, but... (2, Interesting)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409475)

many judges he deals with would rather discard the case on some technicality than enforce the law.

I'm with the judge on this one, though.

The headers of the email show Haselton's address as the sole recipient, and no other messages were offered into evidence from the same sender to other recipients, demonstrating a pattern of spamming behavior.

There was no evidence presented that the message was anything other than one individual sending one other individual a personal message based on some incorrect information.

He didn't prove it was spam, so he lost. That's not a technicality, it's the fundamental tenet that a litigant must be able to prove their allegations.

Re:I'm probably wrong, but... (5, Insightful)

Professional Slacker (761130) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409697)

Are you stupid?

Yes, Haselton's address was the only this particular message was sent to. But it clearly came from an automated source. Do you honestly want spam legislation setup solely on the number of recipients? If so circumventing such laws would be trivial, spam is automated,it wouldn't take that that much effort to automate only putting one recipient on each message. I think a much better metric would be demonstrating that a given message was automated and unwanted. Anyone with half a bit of technical knowledge call instantly tell this was sent from an automated source, and I'd take the suit it self as good evidence it was an unwanted message.

Re:I'm probably wrong, but... (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409803)

You don't have to prove anything in civil court--you just have to convince the judge that you're right. That's obviously where he failed, despite the fact that all of the rest of us know that this type of e-mail is quite clearly spam.

You missed a vital detail (1)

Shawn Parr (712602) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409851)

Ah, but you missed the most important detail. According to the submission, in Washington a misleading subject line is illegal. Since the subject line claimed that the submitter owns Slashdot, it should have been an open and closed case.

Re:You missed a vital detail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409929)

I think the judge was assuming it could be an honest mistake, rather than intentionally trying to mislead the recipient.

If the person bringing the lawsuit had a few other e-mails to other people with exactly the same mistake and pitch, it would have been easier to show this was spam, but that kind of information wasn't provided.

Re:I'm probably wrong, but... (1)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409481)

His stories are entertaining...

What? WTF!!??! Is there some sort of invisiotext that I am missing in the article? What were the entertaining parts? What were the parts that actually had the connect to the headline? It's like we all walked in on the middle of someones hallway conversation and we are being told it is funny but we weren't even aware there was a joke involved.

In other words...

TACO, you nerfherder, give us the mother****ing C O N T E X T!!!!

O.k., too much coffee.

Re:I'm probably wrong, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409597)

TACO, you nerfherder, give us the mother****ing C O N T E X T!!!!

Who needs context when the medium is the message?

Consider yourself McLuhOWNED!

Re:I'm probably wrong, but... (1)

Truder (1118047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409591)

My question is this. Who would spam him as a hobby?

Re:I am totally confused (0)

felipekk (1007591) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409159)

I'm gonna bite the bait here and pretend you are serious (because there are a lot of other comments here that make the same kind of question/didn't understood the article):
CmdrTaco is just telling us what happened when he decided to sue the guy that sent him spam asking him to exchange links with his website about "Growing money in trees at home". For us, this looks 100% like spam (message from an automated php script, response to be filled in a form on a website) but the judge ruled this as a personal email so his attempt to sue the guy failed unfortunately.

Re:I am totally confused (2, Informative)

Aeron65432 (805385) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409173)

It's pretty simple....I don't understand why you are confused.

A guy, mistakenly taken as the admin of /. happens to have free time and money on his hands. (Not trolling, a fact) He receives a spam e-mail that offers to boost traffic to his website. (which /. doesn't really have a problem with) He finds a Washington State law that says the subject line from this spam e-mail is misleading, takes the guy to small claims court, and the judge who clearly doesn't understand the word "spam" in the e-aspect rules that it was a personal communication and not spam, therefore not illegal. It was a simple read that highlighted a guy's quest to fight spammers (This is not his first time) and also showed the more important continuing fact that judges in this country are woefully uneducated when it comes to the internet. But at least this judge has heard of email before. [slashdot.org]

Re:I am totally confused (3, Informative)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409261)

The way I read it - guy posts a comment to Slashdot. Has email address linked.

Spammer harvests all email addresses from all sites and records the site he got them from.

Sends out spams assuming that at least some email addresses are going to be the address of the owner of the site.

Judge claims that the title is not misleading.

Guy assumes that means that this means he owns the slashdot.org domain.

Re:I am totally confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409271)

You are not alone. After reading the whole thing I'm still unclear on what the judge actually ruled (and who won?)...

And the whole "I just I own Slashdot" is a ridiculous non-sequitur. The judge was, apparently, only discussing whether or not the email was a personal vs. bulk communication (and decided that, presumably since there was no evidence for anyone else receiving the email, that it was personal). The judge was not making any statement about the veracity or accuracy of the statements contained within the email.

So, basically, a judge said "looks like it could be a personal erroneous email to me--not enough evidence for a Spam conviction" and the guy is unhappy with the ruling and hopes we will care?

Tsk. well let me attempt to explain (4, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409337)

This guy has posted before on slashdot. He is a regular and in general well liked if considered a bit weird, but on slashdot, that just proves you fit in.

He uses anti-spam laws introduced in recent years to sue those who sent him spam in court. He does this himself, in small claims court and represents himself. He has mixed results in this and publices this from time to time. Sometimes it gets dismissed by a judge who doesn't think anti-spam rules should exist, or a judge doesn't think people should be allowed to sue, or in the more hilarious cases a judge shows a mental grasp of the issue that would land a regular person in the looney bin. This case is one of them. If a normal person spouted the nonsense this bitch did she would be wearing a straight jacket.

Basically, the poster received a spam, that used some "personal" details. Apparently the judge is unaware that spam can be personalized. It gets a bit complicated (it always does when you try to figure out the resoaning of the insane) but apparently the fact that the email was signed with a name was part of why it could not have been spam.

The poster then makes a link himself, because the email was personal, that means the reference to him owning slashdot must be right, therefore slashdot belongs to him.

It is a bit of a leap, but makes for a nice headline.

But basically this is just an other episode of "The spammers I sue and the idiotic braindead judges that rule on them".

There really should be a system where judges are tested and if they fail a test case they should be fired and every case they judged re-evaluated.

If you wonder why the legal system is so screwed up, judges like this are the answer. The various lower courts rule so absurdly that they are pointless, you must appeal since if you lost it is most likely that it was a dumb idiotic decission. At least the higher court judges tend to be selected from the ones who weren't complete failures earlier in their career.

Re:Tsk. well let me attempt to explain (1)

illumin8 (148082) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409787)

The poster then makes a link himself, because the email was personal, that means the reference to him owning slashdot must be right, therefore slashdot belongs to him.
The leap the author of this article makes is an astounding logic error. He is basically saying "Since the judge thinks this is a personal email (because the spammer signed it with his name), does the judge also think that I really own Slashdot?" I'm all for supporting your cause in suing the spammers, but you're dangerously close to looney land yourself when you start making logic errors like this. As if the judge, agreeing with the spammer, thinks that this is personal email, the judge must then think every aspect of the email is true.

You discredit your cause by making a logical leap like this, and it makes you sound like just some nut-job that likes to bring pointless lawsuits to clog up the court's time.

Re:Tsk. well let me attempt to explain (1)

uglyduckling (103926) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409819)

The poster then makes a link himself, because the email was personal, that means the reference to him owning slashdot must be right, therefore slashdot belongs to him.

I think the point is that the writer argued that the subject of the email was misleading, which is part of the anti-spam legislation in his state. His reasoning (tongue-in-cheek at this point, I believe) is that if the judge rules that it's not misleading, then it must in fact be true that http://slashdot.org/ [slashdot.org] is his site. He is therefore claiming ownership of Slashdot by judicial fiat (in jest).

Re:I am totally confused (2, Informative)

Professional Slacker (761130) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409537)

What does he have to do with slashdot (outside the fine state of Washington) nothing. How ever in Washington a judge has just ruled that the statement "Bennett Haselton owns the website slashdot.org" is not false. And given the boolean nature of the statement since it's not false it must be true. And it makes for a funny story.

The part that gets me is that she had the headers in hand when delivering the ruling the very same headers that contain this:

X-PHP-Script: www.theeashblahblah.com/linkmachine/auto.php
How on earth do you get to be in a judicial position with out realizing that something from a script named auto.php is automated, not to mention the fact that it's in a folder named linkmachine this also doesn't throw up any warning flags? I can understand the judge not understanding the intricacies of how smtp headers work, but how does a person see auto and link machine and not immediately think automated?

Re:I am totally confused (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409911)

Look at it from the perspective of someone who isn't on the Internet 8 hours a day.

X-PHP-Script:
What the hell is this? Does it have something to do with a movie or play?

www.theeashblahblah.com
Not weird. It's a website. They're all over the place.

linkmachine
Ok, I have no idea what this means.

auto.php
Automatically sent mail is not necessarily spam. And "auto" implies "automatic" but it doesn't imply that the mail was sent automatically in the first place--in fact, there's no context whatsoever.

The problem is that judges don't have the knowledge that we have, and so they don't make reasonable decisions. What we need is a "tech court" with judges that are former IT managers and have at least a passing knowledge of what's going on.

For some reason.. (4, Funny)

Selfbain (624722) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409099)

I have a vision of you standing on a street corner shouting this post at passing vehicles.

Where's part 1 of the story? (2, Funny)

Liquidrage (640463) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409115)

The part that would explain who is who and that would tie this story together so that it made actual sense.

I'll take dups to good stories over this nonsensical submission anyday.

Re:Where's part 1 of the story? (2, Informative)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409215)

Ask, and ye shall recieve [slashdot.org] . I didn't have any trouble making sense of it, but I guess that puts me in the minority.

Re:Where's part 1 of the story? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409835)

I thought it was pretty straightforward, if a bit long winded. How is everyone so confused by this article?

2 things (4, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409153)

#1: thank you author, for providing a public service by going after these lowlifes

#2: somebody get Judge Judith Eiler's email address. make sure she's on lots of "personal e-mail" lists. if these seems unfair to the judge, hey, she's the one who ruled this crap isn't spam, it's personal

and come to think of it, she's right, it is personal. i take it personally the moron doesn't know obvious spam when it's in front of her face in a court of law. thereby emboldening the assholes who fill our inboxes with this crap every day, every minute, every hour, every second. the only cure is to give her an education in what she is woefully ignorant of. open the firehoses, fill her inbox with "personal e-mails"

Re:2 things (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409361)

Maybe after a few personal emails from Nigerian princes the judge will have changed her mind.

Re:2 things (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409497)

Think I found it here: http://www.courts.wa.gov/court_dir/orgs/190.html [wa.gov] The address: judith.eiler@kingcounty.gov

Re:2 things (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409557)

Seriously, there needs to be a way to prove that judges made a mistake. This judge screwed up big time. Any number of expert witneses could have testified that this was indeed spam. And where does she get off saying that just because the email might have not gone out to thousands of people that it is not spam? A single email message can be spam if it was unsolicited and especially if the title was misleading.

Re:2 things (2, Insightful)

MistaE (776169) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409739)

There is a way to prove that judges make mistakes. It's called appealing to a higher court. However, there's a lot of reasons not to even bother, with the most significant hurdle being the cost of appealing the case coupled with the fact that even if the higher circuit reversed, you wouldn't get nearly enough money to cover the attorney fees that you'll need to get that far. (Unlike a lower district court, most appeals courts hear the facts solely on the record generated by the lower court, with the only new material being briefs submitted on both sides to argue why the lower judge either correctly or incorrectly applied the law at hand.

Yeesh. (1)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409561)

This is impossible. I'm now up to two posts by circletimessquare on Slashdot that I've publicly agreed with. Well, four more to go and I can cash in on some free tickets to Milliways.

Seriously, the header information states that this is generated by a PHP script, not by an e-mail client. Now, I can't expect the judge to interpret SMTP headers, but provided this was pointed out, it beggars belief that the judge could rule the e-mail as personal on any kind of "obviousness" test.

Re:2 things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409583)

judith.eiler@metrokc.gov

lolwut

Judge Judith Eiler (5, Informative)

mi (197448) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409607)

somebody get Judge Judith Eiler's email address.

It does not seem, like she [metrokc.gov] has one... We'll have to wait until she — and others like her — retire or die out and get replaced by the new generation of judges. Of course, the new generation will be quite ignorant of details of some other new tech. Such is life today — unlike for the previous part of civilization's history, technology can now change drastically within a human lifetime...

Then, again, this particular woman has already been cited [state.wa.us] for:

engaging in a pattern of rude, impatient and undignified treatment of self-represented litigants in the courtroom. This included inappropriately interrupting them, addressing them in an angry or condescending or demeaning tone of voice, and threatening to rule against them if they interrupted or annoyed her.

This suggests, our (self-represented) anti-spam crusader annoyed her and lost for that reason — not at all because she does not know, what spam is... I admire his intentions, but he needs to partner with a like-minded lawyer, who would be going to courts leaving Bennet to what he does best — baiting spammers and collecting evidence.

Re:Judge Judith Eiler (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409669)

It does not seem, like she has one...
See AC sibling to your post.

Re:2 things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409633)

somebody get Judge Judith Eiler's email address. make sure she's on lots of "personal e-mail" lists.
I thought goon rushes were somewhat passé now.

Re:2 things (1)

pturpin (801430) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409671)

#2: somebody get Judge Judith Eiler's email address. make sure she's on lots of "personal e-mail" lists. if these seems unfair to the judge, hey, she's the one who ruled this crap isn't spam, it's personal.
So what are the chances that she has an email which she actually checks?

0n g00gl3 s34rch... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409761)

Nfx, naq lr funyy erprvir.

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Cliffnotes Version (3, Informative)

RealityThreek (534082) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409169)

So, like, this guy got a spam email that said "Hello Slashdot webmaster". He sued the spammer in small claims court. The judge threw it out because this was a personal email from the spammer to the "webmaster of Slashdot". Hilarity ensued. Also there was some point about federal courts inserted in there to make it more confusing. And they all lived happily ever after.

Re:Cliffnotes Version (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409299)

I wonder if he could have provided evidence that common knowledge says that he's not the webmaster of slashdot. If he had shown that the title was indeed false, and if he had then shown that it was obviously false to almost anyone, then maybe he would have gotten somewhere...

Re:Cliffnotes Version (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409695)

Mod parent up.
I realize a rating of "5" is usually reserved for the first 10 posts (which almost always get that rating). This is an excellent synopsis which touches upon the critical points (of a story written in a very muddled style).

Summary of the summary (5, Informative)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409177)

A lot of people here in the comments are saying they can't make heads or tails of this summary, so I'll summarize it:
(1) Bennet, a guy who makes a hobby of suing spammers, gets an email with the subject line 'Reminder: Link exchange with your site http://slashdot.org/ [slashdot.org] offering a link exchance with his website.
(2) He sues spammer under Washington state laws against misleading commercial email
(3) The spammer argues in court that it's a personal email. Bennet argues that nobody who knows him would think he owned slashdot, and that therefore it is not personal. Judge rules in favor of spammer, saying that the email was a "personal email" and thus does not qualify under the law. An alternative reading of said ruling could imply that he (Bennet) owns slashdot.

Hope that clears things up for everyone.

Re:Summary of the summary (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409403)

>An alternative reading of said ruling could imply that he (Bennet) owns slashdot.

Fortunately for everyone, property rights do not stand or fall on what a ruling is construed to have implied.

Note To /. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409193)

Only coherent stories please.

To Whom It May Concern (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409209)

Dear CmdrTaco,

Please inform me where I may be able to get the last 3 minutes of my life back. I know it's not a lot of time but life is short and this is a horrible way to have wasted the precious time we have on this planet.

Thank you.

Re:To Whom It May Concern (1)

IamPer (702953) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409745)

If you and all other ranting here had spent another two minutes and actually *read* the post, you might have understood something, and the rest of us wouldn't have to read your complaints. In fact *I* demand three minutes back from *you*. But of course, you won't have the time to actually read this, so never mind.

Re:To Whom It May Concern (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409859)

KYS?

Re:To Whom It May Concern (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409903)

It's all fucking inane. The posting, the comments -- all of it.

I figure I'm owed about three minutes for the posting itself, three minutes for the attached comments, and another three minutes for you complaining about people complaining.

So here I am, complaining about people complaining about people complaining. And I've only got three more words for you: Plz STFU. THX.

Re:To Whom It May Concern (1)

Torvaun (1040898) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409907)

I'll tell you in a few minutes.

I can't believe I ate the whole thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409223)

Some guy wastes his time suing a spammer and loses by the letter of the law because he failed to educate the judge properly.

Aend hee cain't right fer sheeit.

Re: Judge Rules That I Own Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409253)

Slashdot rules that this article sucks.

The important question is: (4, Funny)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409275)

When is SourceForge going to return slashdot.org to Bennett Haselton? And what can we do about unscrupulous domain squatters in the future?

disinformation (1)

plunderphonic (1126251) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409277)

The only types of spam I can think of where "following the money" wouldn't work, would be pump-and-dump stock spams -- in that case, the beneficiary could be anyone holding stock in the company.

Actually, there is a very insidious form of spam that we do not (yet) see, where "follow the money" doesn't work: disinformation.

Imagine if shady people on the internet kept whispering rumors and innuendo into your ear. "Britney Spears this... John McCain that..." Sometimes it turns out to be true, so you begin believing that they may have grains of truth.
Suddenly there is a whole new component to public discourse on politics, religion, etc.

Confused? Don't be. (4, Informative)

Mr.Intel (165870) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409279)

For all those who are confused by Bennett's "story", don't be. Let me break it down for you...

  1. Bennett gets a spam [wikipedia.org] email.
  2. Bennett decides to sue the spammer for reasons not important to the story.
  3. Despite the obviousness of the spam, Judge decides that the spam was not spam but was, in her legally-binding opinion, a person email.
  4. Bennett explains that this is important because (pay attention now) the same judge that wasn't able to determine what spam looks like also sits more vital cases like child custody, property damage, and rape.

Re:Confused? Don't be. (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409355)

Basically, in short, the slashdot frontpage is Bennett Haselton's personal blog. Full of "what I did today" stories full of inflated self-importance about being the New Media.

Shit, I think even Jon Katz had more respect for his readers.

Re:Confused? Don't be. (1)

Mr.Intel (165870) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409545)

There's definitely a buddy-buddy thing going on here, but we don't know if or how many of his "blog" entries have been denied.

Re:Confused? Don't be. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409783)

> Basically, in short, the slashdot frontpage is Bennett Haselton's personal blog.

And why not? It is his website.

Re:Confused? Don't be. (2, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409541)

Bennett explains that this is important because (pay attention now) the same judge that wasn't able to determine what spam looks like also sits more vital cases like child custody, property damage, and rape.
That is, however, a rather weak conclusion:
1.This was a small-claims judge in a small-claims court. I'm not saying that small-claims judges are less capable than other judges, but clearly small-claims court isn't held to the same rigor as courts charged with child custody or rape. Quite simply, the purpose of small-claims is to get a judgment quickly (and cheaply), and for the judge to apply a bit of "common sense" to small-scale disputes. To generalize from an "injustice" in small-claims to saying that the entire court system should be questioned is weak logic.

2. We don't know enough about the judge's ruling to say whether this was really a mistake or not. We've only heard one side of the story. The judge will have considered evidence and statements from both parties. For all we know the defendant provided some reasonable explanation (e.g. provided sufficient evidence that this was a one-time mistake). It's quite possibly that this was a correct ruling.

3. Also worth noting is that the judge isn't really saying "this isn't spam" but rather saying "there is insufficient evidence that this is spam." So the judge's ruling shouldn't be construed as an endorsement of what the defendant did--it could merely be that from a single email alone (and without, e.g. proof that the same email was sent to other people) the judge cannot reasonably come to that conclusion.

So, while this makes for an interesting case to test what types of spam can be fought in small-claims court, I believe generalizing beyond that is not valid. I'm not saying that the court system is without faults--but this present evidence is weak indeed.

Re:Confused? Don't be. (1)

Mr.Intel (165870) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409585)

That's all very good insight, but I want to be clear that I wasn't taking a position on the merits of Bennett's "story". I was simply summing it up for the myriads of confused slashdotters. I'd rather see ten people debate the particulars of this relatively dull story than see one more hardware "review" pop up in the firehose.

Re:Confused? Don't be. (1)

kebes (861706) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409731)

I know. I wasn't accusing you of the faulty logic! I was just using your succinct and well-framed summary as a convenient place to argue my point. I apologize for the unintended implication that you were using faulty logic!

Re:Confused? Don't be. (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409693)

Bennett explains that this is important because (pay attention now) the same judge that wasn't able to determine what spam looks like also sits more vital cases like child custody, property damage, and rape.

IANAL and especially not familiar with the applicable laws of Washington State, but to me "spamming" has at least as much to do with the distribution practices of the sender as with the content of the message.

One common, non-Hormel-trademark-infringing term for spam e-mail is "bulk unsolicited e-mail"; presumably both adjectives are requisite conditions for e-mail to be considered spam. The message Bennett sued over was unsolicited, but perhaps not "indiscriminate", which is another term often used to define spam; Bennett is not the webmaster of Slashdot, but he has some affiliation with the site, so the sender's misunderstanding may not be entirely unwarranted.

What was not proven in any way was that the message was sent in bulk. Part of the definition of spam being unmet, I believe the judge made the right decision in classifying the message as personal communication.

Missed it by that much (1)

Four_One_Nine (997288) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409285)

There are so many aspects of this story that could have been entertaining, but none of them ever quite took hold. It was a little bit like listening to presidential debates - every so often it sounds like someone is going to say something important and/or actually answer a question and then suddenly they veer off in an ill-phrased obtuse direction.

Perhaps when this writer's English teacher returns his red-lined first draft to him and he prepares his final draft, this article could be posted again.

Or is this merely just a case of "ooh - someone mentioned /. - that's front page material!>

Re:Missed it by that much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409579)

Like listening to a presidential debate - unless Ron Paul is asked a question. Then a question actually is answered, and all the other candidates look like fools. (They are).
However, this article was a bit confusing, I had to re-read it before I completely understood what was going on. It does make a good point though. Obviously this judge has no understanding of what Spam is, and one should question her judgment. And one more spammer is free to spam again...

50 comments and in and noone has said... (0, Redundant)

rhkaloge (208983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409341)

I for one welcome our SPAM fighting overlords

I think we're not getting the whole story (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409459)

So the story is written (and I use that term loosely) to suggest that the Judge doesn't know a Spam when he sees it and punishes the wrong party. However, from the quality of the writing in the article I can't help but to wonder if this guy talks like this in real life, IE like a crazy person. Maybe he's one of those guys who's in small clams court every couple of weeks with what the Judge thinks is some frivolous nonsense that just eats up his time and pushes back the docket even further. Maybe this guy has ignored the Judge's warning not to bring this claptrap back into the court? Finally the Judge got fed up and just ruled against the guy to try to discourage him from doing it again?

Bad inference (1)

DaveLatham (88263) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409521)

From your description it sounds like the Judge ruled that the statute did not apply because the email was personal (not commercial), not because the subject line was true. Regardless of whether the judge was correct that it was personal, the judge did not rule that you own Slashdot.

Average judge IQ (1)

Venik (915777) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409525)

Granted, townie judges may not be the brightest bunch. Then again, are federal judges so much more intelligent? I often wonder how do judges with no technical background decide on highly technical issues? I mean, they are lawyers for the most part and have no other experience. Do they go entirely by "expert" testimony they hear, or are judges arrogant enough to presume they actually understand what they are talking about? This was a simple case, but there are far more technically complex cases, such as patent hearings, for example. It's a battle of experts (the best Big Money can buy), so how can a judge possibly render an intelligent ruling without understanding the technical meat of the case?

Sustained: Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409535)


is going to close.

With all the turmoil in the United Gulags of America, you jokers post fake news. Amazing.

Zzzzz.

Hmmm (1)

Vexorian (959249) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409619)

Does this mean that the reason most slashdotters don't ever RTFA is that they can't handle very long text?

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21409655)

tl;dr

(too long, didn't read)

Huh? (1)

jjm496 (1004054) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409653)

As much as I like to see people go after spammers, this seems a little stupid to me. Looks like a personal email, the guy was just confused about who to contact for Slashdot. If I send an email to someone I think is the webmaster of a site concerning something on said site, but choose the wrong person by honest mistake, am I automatically a spammer?

Sue 'em (1)

yabba-dabba-do (948536) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409667)

I think it would be interesting to see this guy now file suit in the same court claiming ownership of slashdot.org and using the judges previous ruling as evidence. How fast would she reverse herself?

Bennett Haselton (1, Funny)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409705)

Am I the only one who thinks the name Bennett Haselton sounds like a hedge fund, or maybe a purveyor of fine quality marmalades which grace the breakfast tables of the discerning?

ADHD Running Wild on Slashdot (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409937)

Sure seems like a lot of you guys couldn't stay focused enough to read and comprehend the entire text. I mean I didn't finish it either, but I don't claim to be perfectly sane either.
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