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Okay to Spam, Bad to Fight it in North Dakota

I saw this article today and I just thought it was just too amazing. So it turns out that in North Dakota one very technologically impaired judge felt that running a zone transfer, among other things, is illegal. David Ritz was attempting to shut down a spammer, using the normal tactics to find out who was running the server that you’d expect, like looking at whois info, traceroute etc…. Oh no, not in North Dakota you don’t! He’s facing possible jail time for attempting to fight spam. Now there’s a twist for you! Isn’t there some sort of oversight for technically challenged judges? Or maybe a “I don’t know anything about this stuff, perhaps you should talk to Judge Bob about this instead, since he does” type system?

While Cynthia Rothe-Seeger (the district judge on this case) opinions are obviously technically questionable given that many of these tools are written specifically to find public information (that means available for anyone, including anti-spam organizations) this could set a legal precedent that enables spammers to operate with near legal impunity out of North Dakota. Great. So if you or someone you are investigating is based out of North Dakota - I’d watch this lawsuit until this is settled. Talk about taking one giant leap backwards for mankind. So fierce is off limits to you North Dakotans!

12 Responses to “Okay to Spam, Bad to Fight it in North Dakota”

  1. mgroves Says:

    After reading this, I think it’s a great idea to let the government regulate the internet more. They got this wrong, sure, but they’ll get net neutrality right!

  2. DoctorDan Says:

    Quite appalling, really…

  3. Marcin Says:

    You got the wrong state in your title.. It’s North Dakota.

    Hmmm… From the case articles I read, Mr Ritz has had several accounts against him and judges orders to stop him from interacting with the company in question, and he did more than just a zone transfer.

    Let’s stop being so sensational with this story.

  4. Nihil Says:

    You know what this reminds me of?

    The Internet is not a big truck.

  5. Mestizo Says:

    After reading this, all I can say is “HOLY CRAP”! Not so much about the judgement in this case.. No, I am more in awe of the the defendant. David Ritz.. This guy has been an anti-spam/internet kook for a long long time! I can not believe this guy is not only still around, but still very active in fighting spam. When I was getting my start back in the late 90’s, doing abuse & security at UUNET, I used to talk D Ritz on the phone probably several times a week, every week. Here it is 10 years later, and he is still fighting the good fight.. and uncompensated at that!

  6. Cronus111 Says:

    Haha! North Dakota has some catching up to do with the rest of the world!

  7. ruz Says:

    South Dakota, North Dakota, what’s the difference? Well, I hope we have more technically competent judges

  8. RSnake Says:

    Whoops - sorry about that South Dakota - I fixed the title (the URL is irreparably broken though, I’m afraid).

  9. Marcin Says:

    You can change the post slug… if you’re on wordpress ;)

  10. id Says:

    To quote the judgement:

    “3. At various other times, Ritz issued a variety of commands, including host -l, helo, and vrfy. The afore-mentioned commands are not commonly known to the average computer user.”

    Ah, knowing things others don’t = bad…

    “4. Ritz frequently accomplished his access to Sierra’s computers by concealing his identity via proxies and by accessing the servers via a Unix operating system and using a shell accounts, among other methods. He also disguised himself as a mail server.”

    I’m posting from a UNIX box right now, guess odds are I’m committing a crime! I’ve also tested mail servers on the command line with complicated commands such as “HELO”, I didn’t know I was “disguised as a mail server” when doing that, lock me up!

    He may be a dipshit for disobeying a judges order, but them being able to use such nonsense as relevant “fact” in proving his guilt is where the courts are falling down.

  11. Log0 Says:

    This is just ridiculous. It sounds to me like the case in Hong Kong a year ago of condemning a man posting hyperlinks to pornographic sites. And you see, you don’t know if your links will suddenly point to porno sites.

  12. TK Says:

    I’m amazed that these cases move so far through our judicial system without a single reasonable thought being applied to them.