NSI threatens to sue Blackhole List operator
By Dan Goodin
Staff Writer, CNET
August 2, 1999, 1:00 p.m. PT

Network Solutions is threatening to sue an influential antispam group if it provides a filter that could be used by hundreds of networks worldwide to block the dominant registrar's email.

Mail Abuse Prevention Systems, a Redwood City, California, group founded by Internet pioneer Paul Vixie, said in an Internet posting that it is considering adding NSI to its Realtime Blackhole List following "repeated attempts to get them to stop sending unsolicited bulk commercial email to all domain holders." The filter, which lists Internet service providers and companies that permit spam to be sent on their systems, would then be made available to network administrators to use in blocking email from NSI and other offending organizations.

The filter is used voluntarily by at least 180 licensed subscribers, Mail Abuse Prevention Systems, or MAPS, says on its Web site. The service has been instrumental in getting Microsoft Network, America Online, Netcom, and others to modify their email policies when those companies temporarily were blacklisted.

NSI, however, is not taking the threat lying down. In a letter sent Friday, Jonathan Emery, NSI's general counsel, warned that MAPS faced serious legal action if it prevented NSI email from reaching its customers.

"Network Solutions will not hesitate to take all actions necessary to protect its rights and ensure that its channels of communications to it own customers remain open," Emery wrote. "You should be prepared to accept the consequences of your actions should a company such as lose its domain name, and thus its e-commerce business, as a result of having its notices and invoices intercepted and destroyed."

NSI, which until recently was the sole registrar of domain names ending in ".com," ".net," and ".org," periodically sends its customers marketing materials in addition to regular invoices and service announcements. Under an exclusive arrangement with the federal government, NSI registered more than 5 million domain names before a shared registration system was established. The arrangement gave NSI a wealth of information that the Herndon, Virginia,company says it has proprietary rights to.

But not all NSI customers appreciate receiving the marketing material. One of them, the president of a company called Hypertouch, complained about the NSI email to MAPS, Emery wrote. Emery added that far from being spam, NSI's emails were "vital catalysts to free and open commerce," and that customers have the ability to get off the marketing list. Representatives from MAPS were not immediately available for comment.

Despite all the bluster, however, at least one Internet lawyer said NSI would face an uphill battle suing MAPS over the filter, which network administrators actively have to seek out and install on their systems.

"Given the purely voluntary nature of the Realtime Blackhole List, it's difficult to see any legal theory under which NSI could state a claim," said Dave Kramer, an attorney at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati who has handled several high-profile spam cases.

MAPS has had scrapes with other powerful companies over its list, including Microsoft and Netcom, but so far those companies have been able to resolve their differences out of court, usually after they modified their systems to prevent them from being used by spammers. For example, free email and Web hosting provider GeoCities last year started requiring its users to enter a password to use email so that outsiders could not use the service to send spam.

NSI to be RBL'ed?

Posted by justin++ on Saturday July 31, @04:55AM
from the is-this-"information-warfare"? dept.
An anonymous reader, thank his kind soul, submitted the following: "MAPS is considering black holing NSI for its repeated spamming of the 5 million owners of domain names. I don't know about you, but I don't think being spammed is part of the "business relationship" I signed up for when I registered my domains, thus I don't think NSI should be spamming me. But, man it could hurt a lot of people if NSI does get RBL'd. Of course, it could help raise awareness of the issue, and maybe demonstrate to NSI that we don't appreciate being pushed around.". It will be interesting to see how this plays out. NSI certainly isn't making many folks happy these days. Read more for the full scoop.

Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 16:02:14 -0700
From: Paul A Vixie
Subject: possible RBL event coming up involving NSI

------- Blind-Carbon-Copy

Subject: possible RBL event coming up involving NSI
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 16:02:14 -0700
From: Paul A Vixie

You are receiving this because you are either an interested outsider, or a staff member or volunteer, or a customer of M.A.P.S., LLC. Note our new domain name, (The old domain name gave some the false impression that MAPS was not a separate company.)

Today we received the letter below from NSI in response to our repeated attempts to get them to stop sending unsolicited bulk commercial e-mail to all domain holders. In this letter, NSI implies that they will sue us for damages and incite entities like to do likewise if we decide to blackhole them, and then go on to say that they have no intention of stopping the current business practice of these which caused our complaints.

They are pretty much daring us to blackhole them. The board of MAPS, LLC will make its final determination in the next few days, and if we do decide to blackhole NSI it's going to get ugly. As an interested party, we want you all to know what's happening.


July 30, 1999


Nick Nicholas, Executive Director
Mail Abuse Prevention System, LLC
950 Charter Street
Redwood City, CA 94063

Re: Nomination of NSI for Black List

Dear Mr. Nicholas:

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your email to me dated July 16, 1999, regarding the Realtime Blackhole List ("Black List") managed by the Mail Abuse Prevention System LLC.

Enclosed is a copy of a letter I sent today to Mr. James Wagner, President of Hypertouch, Inc., the complainant who apparently prompted your July 16 email to me. Network Solutions has removed Mr. Wagner's name from its mailing list. As noted in the letter, Mr. Wagner could have avoided receiving the subject email in the first place had he simply followed the mailing list removal procedure specified in an email transmitted to him on March 30, 1999.

There can be no doubt that Network Solutions has an existing business relationship with the administrative, technical and billing contacts for a given domain name registered with Network Solutions. These people are the principal points of contact through which Network Solutions transacts business with its customers. They have been so designated by our customers in their domain name registration agreements with Network Solutions.

These are precisely the types of relationships that the California legislature wanted to shield from the restrictions contained in its unsolicited email statutes. Indeed, the statute's protection of communications between persons involved in existing business relationships reflects the state's determination that such communications are not "spam," but rather vital catalysts to free and open commerce. We are aware of no law that prohibits companies from communicating with their own customers.

We respectfully suggest that MAPS and any other person involved in the compilation and dissemination of the Black List adopt a definition of spam that is consistent with the principles recognized by California. Any more expansive definition is overly broad and may unreasonably restrain trade. Indeed, it is apparent that Mr. Wagner's principal concern about Network Solutions' emails is the competitive threat they represent to his company's ISP business. Those emails reference Internet companies that are competitors of Mr. Wagner's company, Hypertouch, Inc. It appears Hypertouch, Inc. hopes to shelter itself from such competition by combining with those who control the Black List and its technology to restrain such competition.

If inclusion on the Black List will effectively block Network Solutions from contacting 40% of the Internet, as you claimed in your email of July 29, 1999, MAPS's actions would have severe and irreparable consequences on the company's relationship with its customers. Network Solutions has over 5,000,000 customers. Consequently, if you place Network Solutions on the Black List, 2,000,000 (40%) of its own customers presumably would be unable to receive important information from Network Solutions, including invoices and deactivation notices, possibly leading to the revocation of their domain name registrations. You should be prepared to accept the consequences of your actions should a company such as lose its domain name, and thus its e-commerce business, as a result of having its notices and invoices intercepted and destroyed. It is difficult to believe that MAPS would be willing to take such drastic actions based on the self-serving complaint of Mr. Wagner.

Indeed, MAPS's overly expansive definition of spam exposes MAPS and those who own or control the Black List to, inter alia, civil claims of: (1) illegal combination in restraint of trade violating Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. ? 1; (2) unfair competition; and (3) intentional interference with contractual relationships.

Network Solutions will not hesitate to take all actions necessary to protect its rights and ensure that its channels of communications to its own customers remain open. I hope that such measures will be unnecessary and that you will opt not to include the company on the Black List.

Please advise me of your decision and do not hesitate to contact me if you wish to discuss this matter further.

Very truly yours,
Jonathan W. Emery

RBL quandry - opinions hereby solicited

The RBL team and I are kind of wondering what to do about some spam we got.
Because blackholing NSI would be of operational concern to a lot of you, I've
decided to ponder this question out loud:

------- Forwarded Message

Date: Wed, 11 Nov 1998 08:50:26 PST
Subject: Paul - value call on this

Technically, this is an opt-out customer-relationship spam.

I think it is a special case, because _there is no where else to go_. should be RBL'ed, IMHO.  Help me.

> Return-Path: owner-admin1@LISTS.NETSOL.COM
> Received: from ([]) by
> (8.8.7/8.6.9) with ESMTP id QAA00585; Tue, 10 Nov 1998 16:50:06 -0800 (PST)
> Received: from pasteur (pasteur [])
> 	by (8.9.1/8.9.1) with ESMTP id TAA23788;
> 	Tue, 10 Nov 1998 19:40:31 -0500 (EST)
>           1.8c) with spool id 0342 for ADMIN1@LISTS.NETSOL.COM; Tue, 10 Nov
>           1998 15:01:15 -0500
> Received: (from listmngr@localhost) by (8.9.1/8.9.1) id
>           PAA18548 for; Tue, 10 Nov 1998 15:01:14
> -0500
>           (EST)
> X-Mailer: ELM [version 2.4 PL25]
> MIME-Version: 1.0
> Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
> Message-ID:  <>
> Date:         Tue, 10 Nov 1998 15:01:14 -0500
> Reply-To: admin-remove@LISTS.NETSOL.COM
> Sender: Owner-Admin <owner-admin@LISTS.NETSOL.COM>
> From: List Manager Account <listmngr@LISTS.NETSOL.COM>
> Subject:      Network Solutions' E-Commerce Update
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII
> ###########################
> Dear Customer,
> You are a valued customer and we want to help increase and
> protect the value of your domain name. As a free added benefit of
> your domain name registration, we would like to send you our
> "E-Commerce Update" from time to time. In these updates, we will
> try to identify helpful information and news that you can use to
> enhance the value of your Web address. If you do not wish to
> receive this newsletter in the future, simply respond to this
> e-mail with the word "remove" in the first line of the message.
> If you have any questions or comments, please send them to
> Network Solutions - the world's leading provider of domain name
> services -- together with VeriSign -- the world's leading Web
> security provider -- has published a new informative guide to
> on-line security, "Securing Your Web Site for Business."
> "Securing Your Web Site for Business" outlines the options you
> have to secure and protect your Web site. By downloading your
> free copy (, you will be
> able to learn how easy it is to secure your site in order to
> protect yourself and your customers.
> Issues covered in "Securing Your Web Site for Business" include:
> * Why on-line security problems could slow the growth of your
> business
> * How to maximize your on-line security at a low cost
> * How to accept credit cards and sell products on-line---securely
> * What a Digital ID is
> * Why you need a Digital ID
> * How to obtain a Digital ID for your Web site
> As an additional service to our customers, Network Solutions and
> VeriSign bring you a special free trial version Secure Server ID.
> VeriSign Secure Server IDs are the security solution currently
> used by over 90 percent of Web sites conducting secure online
> commerce and this free trial will allow you to experience how
> easy Web site security can be. Please visit us at
> to start experiencing the
> benefits of on-line security today.
> We would also like to take this opportunity to remind you of the
> importance of keeping your Network Solutions domain name records
> up to date. Incorrect data can result in your next invoice being
> delivered to the wrong location, and may cause delays when you
> request other services such as a Secure Server Digital ID. To
> review your domain name records and the associated information go
> to
> Thank you for being a Network Solutions customer. We look forward
> to serving your future domain name needs.
> Sincerely,
> Doug Wolford
> Senior Vice President

------- End of Forwarded Message

Re: RBL quandry - opinions hereby solicited

> I don't really see this as SPAM. It's is annoying, but I would place it in
> the same classification as a credit card company, one that I hold a card
> from. sending me junk mail. Since they (Network solutions), have developed
> this mailing list from infomation you provided to them in registering
> domain(s).
> They are entitled to contact you. You may, of course complain, and they
> (Network solutions), are of course are entitled to take no action.
> Ron Johnson

According to the rules MAPS follows when dealing with other RBL candidates,
if there is no reliable way to stop someone from sending you e-mail, then
it makes no difference that they have some preexisting relationship with you.

In other words it's the fact that they won't stop, rather than the fact that
we have no ability to take our business elsewhere, that has qualified them
for the RBL.

Probably the server, which handles only netsol and not
internic business, will go on the MAPS RBL later today.  We're trying to
reach them by phone one last time.



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