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Judge Rules That I Own Slashdot 386

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the now-wait-a-minute dept.
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.

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Judge Rules That I Own Slashdot

Comments Filter:
  • well (Score:5, Funny)

    by normuser (1079315) * <normuser@whyisthishere.com> on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:02PM (#21408949) Homepage Journal
    I for one welcome our new slashdot overlord.

    sorry, I had to do it.
  • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:02PM (#21408957) Homepage Journal
    reads like the body of a SPAM message - divorced of context and nearly indecipherable syntax.
    • US Law is like that. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Erris (531066) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:55PM (#21409807) Homepage Journal

      [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? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ian McBeth (862517)
    Can someone say this in English please?
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

      by timster (32400) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:10PM (#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? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by theMerovingian (722983) on Monday November 19, 2007 @02:45PM (#21410521) Journal

        More like: non-lawyer with too much spare time files an inartful lawsuit, blames the judge for his incompetence, then posts about it on slashdot to drum up publicity for his internet site.

        • Bingo! (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Infonaut (96956)

          More like: non-lawyer with too much spare time files an inartful lawsuit, blames the judge for his incompetence, then posts about it on slashdot to drum up publicity for his internet site.

          What surprises me is that so many people seem to be taking his word for it. If you're a lawyer and you lost a case that was clearly an easy win, the last thing you should do is call attention to the fact that you made a colossal screw-up and allowed the judge to come to such a poor decision. If you're not a lawyer, but

          • Re:Bingo! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by SendBot (29932) on Monday November 19, 2007 @08:09PM (#21414643) Homepage Journal
            Did you rtfa? The judge said clearly that this was not spam despite:

            1. Being mailed using PHPMailer [version 1.72]
            2. Addressing "Dear webmaster" about link exchange with "your site", slashdot
            3. Providing links with GET url parameters to "linkmachine/resources/link_exchange.php"

            And she even said that "real spam" implies mass mailing and is the "antithesis" of correspondence like this. Oh, also that he was suing an individual, not a big company or something (as though an individual is incapable of spam)

            So yeah, maybe he did a poor job as auto lawyer, but look at what he was up against.

            I think characterizing this judge as a moron is a fair assessment. Also, if you rtfa he's not downplaying this particular judge's ability to decide other types of cases, just that people in such positions of power are completely capable of making poor decisions that can wreck your life (and that this was not one), thereby exposing a weakness of the criminal justice system.
  • Spam (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tonsofpcs (687961) <{slashback} {at} {tonsofpcs.com}> on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:04PM (#21408981) Homepage Journal
    This article reads like most spam, very confusing and all over the place. What is the point?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 77Punker (673758)
      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:30PM (#21409395) Homepage Journal
        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. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RingDev (879105) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:38PM (#21409515) Homepage Journal
      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
      • by Tetsujin (103070)

        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
        • Legal Advice (Score:3, Interesting)

          by RingDev (879105)
          Yeah, I should have qualified that better. It is not legal advice, it is an idle suggestion for action based on the heavily scewed experiences of a bitter and disallusioned young man.

          Real legal advice would be more like: Research your State's family, child services, and medicare laws and determine if it is in your best interest to wed prior to your child's birth. Make sure you ask about recoupment, the fathers role, and all parties liability after the fact.

          In the State of Wisconsin though, you're pretty muc
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by plague3106 (71849)
            Perhaps you may think the judge erred, but this is my opinion. Who knows, maybe the judge would agree with me.

            You and your wife were screwing the state (i.e., your neighbors whose taxes pay for welfare) by getting her "single mother" assistance when in fact the father WAS there providing the for kid the whole time. So instead of a real single mom getting help, you got it instead.

            Rightfully, the state goes after the father for support of that kid. You have to pay back the money you screwed them out of (a
            • Re:Legal Advice (Score:5, Interesting)

              by RingDev (879105) on Monday November 19, 2007 @03:43PM (#21411431) Homepage Journal
              Ehh, no one got screwed. This was NOT welfare. This is a medicade program, a 1 time assistance system set up to help single mothers give birth.

              We were both military vets, so I had my health care through the VA. Her mother worked at the University, so she had coverage under her mother's insurance until she either turned 25 or got married. I was working 3/4 time as an LTE for the state and was in-elligable for benefits until my son was 3 months old. And my wife was unemployed at the time (full time student wrapping up a BS in agronomy, she banked money in the farming seasons and lived on savings over the winter).

              So long as we did not get married, my wife was covered under her mothers insurance. So most of the pre-natal care was covered, I picked up the deductables.

              As soon as my son was born, he was covered under the Healthy Start program in Wisconsin, which covers all children.

              So the ONLY part of the entire process that was covered by the State was the actual birthing. Which I believe the total bill to Medicare (or Medicade, I can't recall which program any more) was about $3000.

              Now, you may think that we just 'screwed' the State for 3k. But look at the alternative. Had my wife married as soon as we found out she was pregnant, she would have lost her insurance. We would have had to have turned to the State for 100% of the prenatal, birthing, and post-natal care expenses. And better yet, since we were a good married couple and poor, the State would have no avenue for recoupment of that money. The existing recoupment options apply only to unwed fathers.

              We did what we felt was the most responsible thing we could. That year, our medical expenses were so high that I had saved every related reciept to try to get a tax break. But a year later, we came up just short of the amount needed to qualify, so, like an idiot, I tossed the reciepts. 2 years after that, the State finally got around to sueing. There are existing limitations on what the State can sue for. Specificly, they can sue the unwed father of the child for up to 1/2 of the medicare expenses minue any pregnancy related expenses the father pays, although, the State's lawyers usually ignore that limitation and attempt to sue for a flat $2000 fee.

              Had the State not waited 3 year to sue me I would have had the receipts to show that I had already paid over $1500 in pregnancy related care, and the issue would have been settled.

              Further more, my wife is not seeing a dime of that money, the State takes it as it's own. So this nonsense about supporting the kid is just that, nonsense. If anything, the State's decision reduced the quality of life my child enjoys. They picked a hell of a time to sue.

              As for paying the State back for the Medicare program... I do it every month, it's called TAXES. And over my life as a tax paying resident of Wisconsin, I have paid well over the $3000 to the medicade program they used to help pay for my son's Birth.

              By WI state laws and tax codes, a married couple's assets are considered joint assets. According to state and federal medicare laws, Mother can not be held liable for birthing expenses paid by medicare. And according to state marrage law, debt existing from prior to marrage and only hold lein against that debtor's non-joint assets. My wife is a stay at home mom. Any debt the State applied to me is immediately applied to her as well. The very laws that were written to protect women in tough positions are being used like a blunt hammer to squeze money out from anyone they can get, regardless of the situation. And on top of that, they were trying to charge me interest on top of that! Which is in direct violation of the same state laws they were suing me under.

              Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the prosecution of dead beats and people who attempt to skip out of child support. But the State's persuit of this matter has been run on autopilot with no one in the cockpit to see where it's going. They are just so used to dealing with crap that they expect everyone they s
        • Yep, welcome to the modern world: where people deny the obvious to avoid legal liability.

          -The further you are from retirement, the greater the fraction of your portfolio should be in stocks. This is not investment advice.
          -I can feel, deep inside me, your later husband's presence, it's like he's talking to me, and he's telling me that he wants you to move on. This is for entertainment purposes only.
          -For an upset stomach, drink a solution of baking soda, roughly 1 teaspoon diluted in one cup. This is not m
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by EricWright (16803)

        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.

        These two sentences just don't go together in my experience.

        Your wife, the one with whom you had the child are to whom you are currently married, sued you.

        For child support.

        What is this, one of those "what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine" kind of marriages?

        • Re:Judges. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by RingDev (879105) on Monday November 19, 2007 @02:30PM (#21410291) Homepage Journal
          Yeah, it was an interesting time in my house. My wife was recovering from knee surgery when I got the bill. So I couldn't quite fathom how in the build up to her surgery she had found the time, motivation, and drive to attempt to sue me...

          Turns out that the State initiated the lawsuit on her behalf, and because of how the case was being handled, she had no legal authority to decline their offer to sue me. The money they were suing me for was to go to the State Children's slush fund, where it /should/ have been sent on to the Medicare program. If it ever made it there, I have no idea.

          The really entertaining part, is that even though the same State law that they sued us under specificly states that the mother of the child can not be held liable for the medicare expenses, the State was perfectly happy cashing the check from her for the full amount (I had just blown my checking account paying for her knee surgery). The State wanted it's money back, and the Judge was looking at either ignoring the laws and having an easy day, or considering the laws and creating ramifications for the State's child services agencies and Medicare recoupment.

          -Rick
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)


        The judge said, and I quote, "I am not familiar with those laws, so I am going to rule on the one I know."

        I hate to break it to you, but the judge was probably just being polite. As a former judicial intern, I can say that most pro se litigants just get up and spout utter nonsense couched in legal terminology. Judges are prohibited from giving legal advice to litigants, so even if you are entirely off base the judge will just smile and nod periodically.

        There is a reason lawyers go to three years of hell i
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

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

        Indeed. Based on what I read from various posts, you seem to be one of the very very few people here who "gets it". People, I'm going to tell you how the legal system works in the USA. Your experience in another country may be completely different. I know attorneys. My best friend is one. I've actually served on a jury - twice in fact. The vast majority of attorneys, as in 99% of them, don't understand technol
  • by rbanzai (596355) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:06PM (#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.
    • by mkosmo (768069) *
      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?
      • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:56PM (#21409823) Journal

        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!

        • by mkosmo (768069) *
          Hmm, much appreciated. That makes a lot more sense.
          Now... why did CmdrTaco post such a horrible article? :(
    • 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..."
    • by paladinwannabe2 (889776) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:16PM (#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: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by poot_rootbeer (188613)
        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 informa
        • by Professional Slacker (761130) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:49PM (#21409697) Homepage
          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.
          • I think link exchange requests are annoying, but I don't consider them spam when they are sent to a contact address for a web site. The world wide web is premised on the idea that people will be actively building links to resources. Most link exchange requests are garbage, but it is part of a legimate process. Even though I ignore the things, I hate seeing small businesses sued for the practice.

            It is possible for mail with the subject line "Link Exchange Request" to be spam, just as it is possible for ma
        • by Sancho (17056)
          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.
        • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Aeron65432 (805385)
      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

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      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.
    • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:26PM (#21409337) Journal

      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.

      • by illumin8 (148082)

        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 l

      • 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

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      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.p

      • by Sancho (17056)
        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

  • by Selfbain (624722) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:12PM (#21409099)
    I have a vision of you standing on a street corner shouting this post at passing vehicles.
  • by Liquidrage (640463) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:13PM (#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.
  • 2 things (Score:4, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [erauqssemitelcric]> on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:16PM (#21409153) Homepage Journal
    #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"
    • Maybe after a few personal emails from Nigerian princes the judge will have changed her mind.
    • Re:2 things (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:37PM (#21409497)
      Think I found it here: http://www.courts.wa.gov/court_dir/orgs/190.html [wa.gov] The address: judith.eiler@kingcounty.gov
    • by Bryansix (761547)
      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MistaE (776169)
        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 ne
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheBracket (307388)
        Here in Missouri, you can automatically appeal any small claims verdict with a trial de neuvo. Basically, you get a whole new small claims trial with a different (usually more senior) judge. I believe that's common in other states, too - and it's used quite a bit, since small claims judges tend not to be too concerned with more than making a verdict in a very tight timeframe. The small claims courts are always bogged down, and each trial tends to receive less than 15 minutes of attention.

        I recently helped a
    • by jd (1658)
      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.

    • Judge Judith Eiler (Score:5, Informative)

      by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:43PM (#21409607) Homepage

      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.

      • "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."

        It really is Judge Judy!!! [judgejudy.com]
      • 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.

        Why should he have to? It's "small claims". If she doesn't like dealing with people who represent themselves, she shouldn't be sitting on that particular court.

    • Re:2 things (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kredal (566494) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:59PM (#21409861) Homepage Journal
      Be careful of what you email her... you might stress her out. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/saturdayspin/211730_sorbo12.html [nwsource.com]

  • Cliffnotes Version (Score:4, Informative)

    by RealityThreek (534082) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:17PM (#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.
    • 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...
  • by Raul654 (453029) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:17PM (#21409177) Homepage
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:19PM (#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.
    • by Torvaun (1040898)
      I'll tell you in a few minutes.
  • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:22PM (#21409275) Journal
    When is SourceForge going to return slashdot.org to Bennett Haselton? And what can we do about unscrupulous domain squatters in the future?
  • Confused? Don't be. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mr.Intel (165870) <mrintel173 AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:22PM (#21409279) Homepage Journal

    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.
    • by nuzak (959558)
      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.
      • by Mr.Intel (165870)
        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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kebes (861706)

      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 t

      • by Mr.Intel (165870)
        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.
        • by kebes (861706)
          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!
    • 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"; p
    • My reading of it (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Moraelin (679338)
      1. Dumbass gets a spam email.

      2. Dumbass decides to sue, purely because that kind of lawsuits seem to be his idea of entertainment. (Even he admits that there are more efficient ways to attack spam than what he does there.) Although he doesn't have the evidence that it's spam, and he doesn't seem to know what the laws actually say about spam.

      3. Judge decides that, based on the presented evidence, she can't rule out that it might have been genuine stupidity.

      Remember: email from strangers isn't against the law
  • 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
  • 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 pate
    • by pragma_x (644215)
      Here's the problem: it's not IQ, it's experience.

      If I learned one thing back in the 90's doing .com support desk work, it's that a person's intelligence has next to nothing to do with their proficiency with basic technology and computer related tasks. Yes, there's a minimum IQ threshold, but it's not all that high.

      Judges sit on the bench for *decades*, typically after they're done being a lawyer, so their experience with the world outside the courthouse may be a tad dated. After all, a lot has happened in
  • by Vexorian (959249)

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

  • 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?
  • 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.
  • Slashdot gets a literate editor! And in charge, too!
  • by kwabbles (259554) on Monday November 19, 2007 @02:12PM (#21410025)
    From soundpolitics.com

    A King County District Court judge and Federal Way resident named named Judith Eiler, who in 2003 taught a seminar to Washington state administrative lawyers in "ethical fitness" will now be taking ethics and sensitivity training at her own expense. This last part according to an article in the Tacoma News Tribune.

            A longtime South King County judge was reprimanded Friday by a state commission for a pattern of "rude, impatient and undignified treatment" of self-represented litigants.

            Judge Judith Eiler works in the south division of King County District Court, which includes Federal Way, Kent and Enumclaw. The division is based in Kent. She served in the now-closed Federal Way division from 1992 through 2002.

            The state Commission on Judicial Conduct said Eiler's treatment of those who represented themselves 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."

            Eiler agreed her conduct violated the Judicial Code of Conduct. The commission ordered her to take ethics and sensitivity training at her own expense.

    The online brochure for the "ethical fitness" professional seminar she gave in Tacoma in May, 2003 (second link from top) notes - rather interestingly - that the credits for that portion of the program were "pending." Coinky-dink, I'm sure.
  • by RomulusNR (29439) on Monday November 19, 2007 @05:05PM (#21412555) Homepage
    19.190 doesn't say anything about bulk mail, in fact it specifically says [wa.gov] "a" message, meaning a single email can be in violation. Nor do the definitions [wa.gov] mention bulk messaging at all. It doesn't matter if you know the person or how many they send. Why didn't you point this out to the judge?

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