CHICAGO (AP) – The anti-spam group Spamhaus Project warned that more junk e-mail could be on the way as it prepares to lose its domain name thanks to a company it has accused of sending spam.

Executives at the U.K.-based Spamhaus Project said Monday they expect a federal judge in Chicago will soon sign an order that would suspend the domain because the U.K.-based group has refused to recognize the U.S. court and comply with a $11.7 million judgment.

Spamhaus warned that the order could unleash up to 50 billion junk e-mails a day on computer users worldwide, though legal and technology experts were skeptical the effect would lead to millions of clogged inboxes.

According to Spamhaus, more than 650 million Internet users – including those at the White House, the U.S. Army and the European Parliament – benefit from Spamhaus’ “blacklist” of spammers to help identify which messages to block, send to a “junk” folder or accept. Losing the domain name would make it more difficult for service providers and others to obtain the lists. “If the domain got suspended, it would be an enormous hit for the Net,” said Steve Linford, Spamhaus’ chief executive officer. “It would create an enormous amount of damage on the Internet.”

But experts said even if the order filed Friday is executed, it’s unlikely people would suddenly see much more junk mail. Experts note that Spamhaus’ blacklist is already widely available online, and a suspension at most would provide a hiccup that Web-savvy systems administrators could easily work around.

“Suspending a domain name isn’t the same as suspending a Web site,” said Jonathan Zittrain, a law professor at Harvard and Oxford universities. “Spamhaus is intended for use by people who run mail servers – in other words, technically inclined people. If Spamhaus wanted to, it could simply pick a new domain name, or use no name at all.”

Domain names are merely shortcuts to access a site’s true, numeric Internet address. Spamhaus could simply distribute that address instead of the domain name.

And it’s not even clear U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras could easily order such a suspension because the Domain Name System is in the hands of organizations and companies that are not parties to the lawsuit. They could challenge any such attempt.

Wheeling-based e360 Insight sought the order after Spamhaus refused to comply with a September ruling that required it to pay $11.7 million and post a notice on its Web site stating that e360 Insight is not a spammer.

Spamhaus officials did not bother defending themselves in the case, arguing that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction and that doing so would open the organization to a tidal wave of lawsuits by spammers that want to fight those who block their e-mails.

Bart Loethen, a lawyer for e360, insists his client does not engage in spamming and said he had to go after Spamhaus’ domain until it removes the company from the blacklist.

“They are thumbing their nose at an order of the court,” Loethen said. “What else can we do?”

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