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2001 Dec 30 16:45

The following is an archive of a post made to our 'vox mailing list' by one of its subscribers.

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Re: [vox] [OT] junk mail (physical, not UCE)
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Re: [vox] [OT] junk mail (physical, not UCE)



On Mon, 30 Jul 2001, Peter Jay Salzman wrote:
> are there any laws about honoring "take me off your mailing list" requests
> for junk mail?

This might be of some help as it covers two civil laws about it:
http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs4-junk.htm


On the general topic...

http://www.ask.com/main/askjeeves.asp?ask=What+can+I+do+about+junk+mail%3F

http://search.yahoo.com/bin/search?p=california+anti+junk+mail

http://www.qlinks.net/quicklinks/spam.htm



Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, so please see a lawyer for legal advice.

See summary near bottom if you want to skip free-form answer/brain
dump and should be treated more like opinion and less like fact.

My memory is fuzzy for it and I must be bored to write this, but...

Going to try to include email and snail-mail

Many states have laws governing "spam" and "unsolicited e-mail" and fines
for it. I think California has been one before, but test cases for early
instances overturned the law (I said my memory was fuzzy on this... :-/
) New ones may have been enacted.

Some people have quoted a federal law on unsolicited electronic messages
allowing the receiver to levy a fee of $500 for archival purposes for each
instance, but I think this was originally intended for Faxcimilie *not*
e-mail. (background: Denial of service against being faxed ads you never
asked to receive and the receipt being a denial of service as you can't
get or send the faxes you want. Also costing the sender very little but
the recipient money in the way of ink/paper and time. Also denial of
service where a looped sheet of black paper could be sent to a victim and
cause them to waste thermal paper - probably not an issue for modern FAX
machines.) I dont recall any examples of this being used in cases with
e-mail or even snail mail.

Even if you assume the above two can work for your e-mail woes, there are
problems:

State laws are difficult to prosecute across state lines - even with state
agreements for extradition, and some sort of "shared same-case/law
enforcement" (I am sure I am botching up the jargon) where states will
agree to help each other when they have similar laws towards prosecuting
people across state lines.

Why? Well, how much is it really? You received 1 mail message from 1
person, and the costs of working through the legal side of it will be
huge. I suspect the state governemnt would bankrupt the people if it did
prosecute each instance of spam and unsolicited e-mail. (Lawyers are
expensive, and I suspect a DA would look at you like you were crazy if you
said you received an unsolicited e-mail message and wanted to have them
prosecute.) Of course, all mail messages over a year can add up,
and some may argue the effect of the spam over all of the recipients is
significant, but are a majority of spam messages they from the same
individual? Also, what kind of political flak could the DA take for
prosecuting a case of spam if a high publicity murder or rape case with no
or little supporting evidence existed? (DAs are political too. :-/ )

Also, proof: Burden of proof for civil would probably be yours as you
would be the plaintiff. Can you really prove they sent you the message that
you received? Mail can be forged esp. with so many poorly configured mail
servers our there with relay mode enabled for anyone.

As for criminal law on this (if it exists) the gov has the burden of proof
that the defendant actually sent the message(s) in question and may have
trouble proving this too. If they claim someone bounced messages off
their server, then they may find charges of a different sort, but that may
also be difficult.

Florida did pass a law to require would be snail mail spammers to consult
a list of Florida citizens that did not want to be on a mailing list
before sending mail. There was some sort of compensation that a recipient
could acquire if they were still sent the snail mail spam, but I dont
recall what it was, and seem to recall the business needed to be in the
state of Florida for it to work. (Of course this would be a "great" denial
of service if you were competing with "Company X" as you might choose to
send ads from "Company X" to all of those people on that list and tie
"Company X" in litigation.)

Summary:
Even if there are laws local to our state for spam (e-mail or
snail-email) enforcement of those laws, or prosecution of civil causes may
be difficult or impossible if you want to win. The government may choose
to not enforce the law, and the cost of setting up even a small-claims
court case with the filing fees and multiple subpoena for people  multiple
ties (especially when they dont show up) can be prohibitively
expensive. Also, out-of-state senders may be able to avoid the law as
might out-of country spammers.

What to do:
Some states (Florida for example) have state compensated lists you may
join. Some for a small fee, and others for free.
Some states have "spam-buster" organizations that are sometimes for
profit, not-for-profit and non-profit organizations that seek to have you
removed from spam mailing lists, but I think they are mostly cooperative
with businesses just agreeing to not send - not sure.

If it is the phone company, I *think* you may tell any one of them that
may call to place you on a list to not be bothered by phone company
solicitation for a year or something. (I do this every year that I get the
first call from a phone company long distance carrier and it seems to
work.)

For e-mail I know some who set up their mail server to read through header
information and find the actual servers used to send the message and then
bounce a message to that server's admin/postmaster/root with a statement
that you wish to be removed from future spam if the normal means do not
work.

Another one that was "out there" was the "black-hole" mailing list of
spammers. (Not sure of its status, but it was quite popular long ago nd
might still be popular.)

One more thing: I *think* there was an attempt (not sure if it was
successful) to make all local dial-up connections to the internet (TCP/IP
sessions) to be considered to pass across state lines - even if they were
all within the state. Why? Phone company groups wanted to charge people
for long distant calling *and* the back-door could allow the feds to
prosecute cracking within a state!

Of course all of this is from memory, and I have few sources to include in
reference, so please take it all as opinion and before you quote something
as fact, check it out on your own.

Just some thoughts....
-ME

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     Systems Department Operating Systems Analyst for the SSU Library



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