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Anti-spam group sues software guru

Though they agree on the need to curb unsolicited e-mail, Gordon Fecyk and his ex-employer are at odds over the rights to a software program--and a $10 contract.

What happens if you create software, bring it with you to an organization and then want to take an enhanced version of it when you leave?

In the case former Mail Abuse Prevention System (MAPS) employee Gordon Fecyk, author of the anti-spam ORCA Dial-up User List, you get sued.

MAPS, an anti-spamming group and keeper of the controversial Realtime Blackhole List, has accused Fecyk of illegally using the system after leaving the organization. Saying his actions were "malicious, arbitrary and reprehensible," MAPS filed a lawsuit in a Winnipeg, Manitoba, court last month accusing Fecyk of a host of violations including the unlawful copying and use of its property.

The Dial-Up User List was designed to discourage spammers who had figured out how to get around MAPS's Realtime Blackhole List, a directory of Internet service providers believed to host some major spammers. Some senders of spam--unsolicited or junk e-mail--try to bypass the list by sending messages from a dial-up account directly to e-mail servers of recipients. However, the Dial-up User List system intercedes and blocks messages to those servers.

In 2000, Fecyk signed on with MAPS, bringing the Dial-up User List with him. He also says he struck an agreement saying that he could buy back the rights to the system for $10 if he ever left the organization. However, MAPS said in court documents that it never agreed to those terms. Nevertheless, MAPS in February returned the original version of the system that Fecyk brought several years ago, which is much more stripped down.

So far, a judge has sided with MAPS, granting it a temporary restraining order preventing Fecyk from using the system. However, the case is still pending.

A MAPS representative wouldn't comment extensively on the case but framed it as a standard dispute over intellectual property between an employer and a former employee. Fecyk could not be reached for comment.

MAPS is not a stranger to litigation, but its legal battles usually involve fending off lawsuits filed against it by companies that say they've been unfairly lumped in with spammers. MAPS has settled suits with several companies after they were blocked from sending mail.