In a submission released late last week, Microsoft said "intermediaries" such as Internet service providers (ISPs) and e-mail service providers could help relieve the enforcement burden on Australia's spam watchdog if the government allowed them to tackle spammers.
"While [we accept] that the government should be cautious about providing a broad private right of action that could encourage frivolous litigation, we recommend that the government give consideration to allowing standing for those relevant industry participants with sufficient interest in the legitimacy of the electronic mail system to enable them to bring proceedings against spammers", the company said.
The Microsoft submission was one of 64 made to a federal government inquiry into the Spam Act 2003 that was released late last week.
In a telephone interview, Microsoft Australia's chief security officer Peter Watson said there was presently no legislation that allowed Microsoft or its joint venture -- and other so-called intermediaries -- to tackle spammers directly, as the impact of their activities was primarily on the customer.
He said there had been no response yet from the government.
In its submission, Microsoft pointed to its legal successes against spammers in the United States -- where intermediaries are afforded a private right of action -- as "illustrative" of the benefits of such an approach.
"Since late 2003, Microsoft has filed over 109 lawsuits in the United States targeting 17 defendants listed on Spamhaus' Register of Known Spam Operations.
"To date, 62 of these lawsuits have been resolved favourably, including Microsoft's most notable and public success against self-proclaimed 'Spam King' Scott Richter.
"In that case, Microsoft obtained a settlement of US$7 million, of which US$5 million was directly reinvested in Microsoft-led enforcement initiatives against spam, phishing, child exploitation and the dissemination of malicious code.
"The Richter case was an example of effective cooperation between industry and government, particularly the New York Attorney-General's office".
The company said its anti-spam enforcement activity had produced more than 135 legal actions worldwide.
"Microsoft is not the only industry participant to take such proceedings.
"We have cooperated with AOL, Earthlink, Yahoo!, Amazon.com and Pfizer.
"We see no reason why similar industry efforts could not be replicated in Australia".