A US judge has pulled back from a conflict with Internet naming agency ICANN, averting a potential crisis over domain name management.

Judge Charles P Kocoras has decided not to ask ICANN to suspend the doman name for Spamhaus - even though the British-based organisation has refused to pay the $11.7m damages owing to US-based email marketing company, e360 Insight. The judge said that ordering the suspension would "not correspond to the gravity of the offending conduct."

Spamhaus, which has been sued in the US several times, typically ignores the rulings. It claims US courts do not have jurisdiction over it since the group is based in the UKSpamhaus maintains that e360's e-mail constitutes spam and violates British law.

US lawsuits against Spamhaus typically end there, but earlier this month e360 raised the stakes. On 6 October it asked the court to force ICANN and Spamhaus's domain registrar, Tucows, to suspend its domain name.

The request sparked speculation that ICANN, which is subject to US law, would be required to enforce that law internationally by, for example, shutting down a foreign website. ICANN said later that even if a court did order it to shut down a domain, it couldn't do that since that power lies with individual registrars.

Spamhaus CEO Steve Linford said a ruling the other way would have been alarming, particularly to governments concerned that the US has held administrative control over the Internet through ICANN for too long.

"Of course, we are extremely relieved that the judge has ruled in this way," said Linford. Friday.

Spamhaus, which has retained new legal counsel, is pursuing how it can get US courts to recognise that it does not fall within their jurisdiction, Linford said. In the past, Spamhaus has advised bulk emailers to sue it in UK courts. It believes they are reluctant to do so, he said, because of tougher U.K. anti-spam laws and legal rules that require losing parties to pay court costs.

Original reporting by IDG news service