Terms of Service

This notice is effective as of August 26th, 2002.

Much though I love receiving e-mail, I am now so overwhelmed by the number of unsolicited bulk e-mail and people who want me to look at their e-mail offerings that I am now forced to charge €25 for each unsolicited bulk email or offer to "buy this report" or "look at this stock" or similar (as deemed similar by myself) I receive, plus an additional €25 bandwidth fee per email for HTML formatting or file attachments, charged on your behalf to your ISP if you do not pay within 30 days or, in the case of non-Finnish companies or individuals, to your country's Finnish embassy. I also charge €25 for testing your "unsubscribe" or "opt-out" utility, which is a great bargain since so few of them actually work as promised, and I know you want yours to operate properly.

Please don't claim I "opted in" or "subscribed" to your bulk e-mail. I didn't, and don't try to claim I did, because we both know you're lying. "Someone else must have subscribed you" is not valid, either. If you choose not to use a double opt-in (subscription confirmation) system, you are being rude to people who are being subscribed to your bulk e-mail lists by someone else without permission, and you should be grateful that I am only charging you so little in return for pointing out a major flaw in your system so you can correct it instead of letting you keep on being stupid and ignorant until you get black holed or your ISP cuts off your service due to complaints (and believe me, I will use your ISP's abuse e-mail address for every single unsolicited bulk e-mail you send me). In addition, if you sell/sold any of my personal information, including but not limited to my name, email address, website address or any other personally identifiable information, as part of any kind of sales transaction or contact database transfer without my express, written permission in advance, I will charge you €5 royalty per piece of information per copy sold. It's my name and information, pal, not yours. Capice?

All charges are "plus €25 per hour trackdown and collection fees" with a minimum charge of 2 hours and do not include court or other related costs, so when you get my bill please pay it promptly.

If you cannot abide by these Terms of Service, do not send me unsolicited bulk e-mail. If you choose to send me unsolicited bulk e-mail, you accept these terms automatically. Remember, you are the one who initiated the transaction, not me. I did not ask you to send me unsolicited bulk e-mail (If I did, it wouldn't be unsolicited).

Sincerely,

Petteri Lyytinen

Let's see if this has any effect whatsoever on the amount of spam I receive (I added a URL to a webpage containing this text in my e-mail signature). Used and modified with permission from Robin Miller (http://roblimo.com/)

Anti Spam Legislation in the U.S. circa 2003

Is it possible to can the spam?

Unsolicited email, spam, grrrrr. Everybody experiences it.  Everybody hates it.  Nobody seems able to do anything about it.  Ferris Research projects that by 2005, everyone with an email account will receive 30 spam messages per day1.  I don't know about you, but I'm already there and the volume seems to be picking up daily.  Worse yet, I don't even remember the last time I received a solicitation that was even remotely useful. This morning's haul included online Mortgage offers, Penis enlargers, X-10 spy cameras, really ugly and explicit porn, yet another Nigerian Prince needing my assistance, and several organic Viagra specials (hmmm now that's a thought...).  

I remember when fax machines were similarly under attack in the 1980's.  The volume of junk faxes threatened to destroy the utility of the fax machine, but American lawmakers came to the rescue with strong "junkfax" laws that defined the problem legally and put draconian penalties in place for violators.  The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991(TCPA), 47 USC ยง 227, made it a violation of U.S. federal law for anyone to send a junk fax.  It also gave private citizens the right to sue to stop further faxes, and collect monetary damages from junk faxers2.  These measures didn't stop the practice entirely, but they brought it under control and initiated a cottage industry of individual lawsuits against the junk fax abusers.  In short, the law worked pretty well. Although the language of the TCPA could be interpreted as prohibiting unsolicited email as well as faxes, most lawmakers feel that a stronger, more targeted approach is needed.

A review of three laws pending in the 108th U.S. Congress this year suggest the time may have finally arrived to bring spam under control.  Below you'll find summaries of each of the bills, pick your favorite and call email your state senator and representatives! 

S. 877 CAN-SPAM Act of 2003

The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act was introduced last year and reintroduced again in 2003 with relatively few changes.  The bill's proponents, Senators Conrad R. Burns (R-MT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) believe that it stands a better chance now due to the rising outrage about the spam problem.  Last year, it won the support of the Senate Commerce Committee, but did not make it to a vote in the Senate.  The Burns-Wyden bill requires all unsolicited commercial email message to include opt-out instructions and the sender's physical address.  It also requires spam messages to be labeled, but doesn't specify a standard method for doing so.  The law would prohibit the use of deceptive subject lines or false header lines and senders would be banned from further mailings once a consumer request that they stop.  Some ISP's have complained that the bill is too weak to adequately address the problem, especially in the area of enforcement.  Another criticism is that the bill should force spammers to include "ADV" labeling in the subject header.

S. 563 Computer Owners' Bill of Rights

The Computer Owner's Bill of Rights was introduced in March 2003 by Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN).  It requires the FTC to create a "do-not-mail" registry of email addresses for individuals and companies who do not want to receive unsolicited commercial email messages.  The FTC could impose civil penalties and fines on violators.  

H.R. 1922 REDUCE Spam Act 

REDUCE, stands for the Restrict and Eliminate the Delivery of Unsolicited Commercial Email.  This act was put foward by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) in May 2003.  Under the act, unsolicited commercial email would have to include a valid reply address and opt-out directions.  The message header would also be required to contain the text, "ADV:,: or "ADV:ADLT."  This would apply to all messages sent in the same of similar form to 1000 or more email addresses within a two day period.  False or deceptive headers or subject lines would also be prohibited in all unsolicited commercial email messages, even if they were not sent in bulk. A controversial provision would allow the FTC to spend up to 20% of the fines collected to create a "bounty," to reward individuals who identify illegal spammers.

The Schumer legislation (to be introduced)

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) has recently proposed a tough approach to unsolicited email.  He will soon introduce a bill in the Senate that combines the most important provisions of the bills discussed above and proposes serious civil and criminal penalties on violators.  Here are the highlights on Senator Schumer's bill:

  •  The FTC will create a no-spam list and allow people to register their email addresses.  Commercial spammers will be required to check the list and remove those listed from their database.
  • All commercial mass-emailings will be required to have "ADV," in the subject line so that they can be easily filtered.
  • All header information in the email header will be required to accurately reflect the source and content of the email message.
  • Bulk commercial email will be required to have a working unsubscribe mechanism available to the recipient.
  • Automatic email address collection via web spiders or "spam bots," will be prohibited.

These provisions would be backed up by tough civil and criminal penalties for offenders.  The law will provide for jail time of up to two years and fines determined by the sentencing judge. It also gives state attorneys general, the FTC and internet service providers the right to seek to seek monetary damages against convicted spammers.

In addition to these federal laws, 26 states have currently passed anti-spam laws.  Among these is Virginia which recently passed the first state law making it a felony to intentionally alter email header or origination information and send more than 10,000 messages within 24 hours or 100,000 within 30 days.  Violators face jail time of one to five years and fines.

According to Senator Schumer's research, email users in New York City alone receive over 8 million unsolicited emails each day, over 3 billion per year. If they spend five seconds to identify and delete each one of these obnoxious spam messages, they will have been cheated out of 4.2 million hours ridding themselves of junk mail each year3.  We're at the tipping point and something's got to give.  Perhaps this is the year for it to begin. 

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August 2004 Update

The CAN-SPAM act of 2003 is the law of the land, but by almost any measure the problem is considerably worse and the volume of unsolicited email continues to rise unabated. InformationWeek magazine estimates that spam accounts for 85% of all email and the anti-spam vendor Commtouch Software reports a sharp increase in the number of spammers who have simply chosen to comply with the CAN-SPAM regulations, thus becoming completely compliant with the law.

The computer industry has entered the battle with several technology-based solutions. Microsoft has proposed a system it calls Sender ID, that will require email senders to use an authenticated address for their email server. This will allow receiving orgranizations to verify incoming messages against lists of known spammers. VeriSign is proposing a similar authentication system and the Anti-Spam Technical Alliance (ASTA) has released a set of guidelines to assist ISPs in identifying and shutting down spamming email servers.

December 2004 Update

It was widely reported last week in the technical press that Bill Gates receives over 4 million email messages each day, of which a dozen or so are actually read.  Suffice it to say that the problem is still getting worse.  In another technical effort to control unsolicited email, Yahoo has recently proposed a cryptographic authentication protocol that it calls DomainKeys.  DomainKeys uses public key encryption to verify that incoming email messages are coming from the sender listed in the message header.  Within weeks of its launch reports had already emerged of spammers hacking the DomainKeys protocol and using it to penetrate spam defenses. 

On the upside, Microsoft announced that it has filed lawsuits against seven spammers under the Can-Spam act. All seven appear to have violated the "brown paper wrapper" rule, requiring sexually oriented email to include an indentifying label in the subject line and header. To date, Microsoft has filed over 100 anti-spam lawsuits under the new law.

Notes

1 EWeek Magazine, 5 May 2003: www.eweek.com
2 Text of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991: http://www.keytlaw.com/faxes/47usc227.htm
3 Senator Charles Schumer on Spam:
 http://www.senate.gov/~schumer/SchumerWebsite/pressroom/press_releases/PR01647.html

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