The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), said that it does not have the ability or authority to comply with a proposed court order that it suspend the internet service of the Spamhaus Project. Spamhaus is a volunteer-run antispam service.

In a proposed order last Friday, Judge Charles Kocoras of the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois called on the organisations responsible for registering the internet address to suspend the organisation's internet service. Both ICANN, the nonprofit organisation set up to manage the domain name system of the internet, and Toronto-based Tucows, the registrar, are named in the order.

The court threatened to shut down Spamhaus for ignoring an $11.7 million judgment against it. The proposed order followed a 13 September ruling in which Spamhaus was required to pay damages and stop listing an email marketing company called E360Insight LLC in its database of known spammers.

Spamhaus, based in London, has said that it ignored the judgment because it cannot be enforced in the UK.

"Even if ICANN were properly brought before the court in this matter, which ICANN has not been, ICANN cannot comply with any order requiring it to suspend or place a client hold on or any specific domain name because ICANN does not have either the ability or the authority to do so," the organisation said.

ICANN said that in most cases only the internet registrar with whom the registrant has a contractual relationship can suspend an individual domain name. Tucows officials could not be reached for comment.

ICANN said it plans to continue to monitor the situation.