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Re: "Unwanted Mail"

On Thu, 12 Sep 1996, Timothy C. May wrote:

> At 9:48 PM 9/12/96, Rabid Wombat wrote:
> >>
> >> These people have invited the email, and the associated expense, by placing
> >> a public email-to: button on their public www page.
> >
> >
> >Most people put up an "email to:" button on a public page for
> >communications related to what's on the page. It's quite a stretch to
> >assume that this invites any and all email from anyone who cares to send
> >whatever they want. I can't say I've ever seen one that said "Please send
> >SPAM(tm) to:" ...
> But to attempt to define "SPAM" (unless you're Armour) is dangerous. This
> whole notion of "unwanted mail" is ill-defined and not something "the law"
> should get involved in, in my view. (And CP technologies certainly are
> consistent with this, e.g., placing the role of screening on those who set
> up gates, not on tracking down True Names for prosecution.)

Hormel, isn't it? Anyway, my point is that the law should not be involved
in it, but that it is going to be sucked in whether we like it or not if
social pressure is ineffective. What is, and is not "spam" has been
debated on usenet since the dawn of 'net time. While most newsgroup
members agree that traffic should stay more or less "on topic", few can
agree to just what "on topic" is. Sorta like the "Pornagraphy Definition"
of "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it" being entirely a matter
of one's own present and subjective opinion, and therefore impossible to 

We're therefore stuck - as a community, we cannot stop what many people 
consider to be undesirable, as we cannot even define it, and the unwashed 
masses will set governance upon us for our "own good."

The community does try to prevent this undesirable sort of communication; 
many people will take it upon themselves to complain to the originator of 
the "mass mailing", and, if that fails, to the ISP providing 
connectivity. When the "mass mailing" is posted through a remailer, this 
becomes somewhat more difficult.

The ability to be anonymous on the 'net is generally a good 
thing. It has allowed people access to information that might have 
otherwise been denied them. It is an important freedom, and one that is 
already in danger of being taken away through legislation (Georgia on my 
mind ...). Abuse of this freedom by someone for purely commercial 
purposes is certainly not going to help matters.

Note the earlier comment about someone being unhappy about their 
"remailer-baby" being used for such a purpose - someone running a 
remailer is generally doing so as a service, and is generally not 
compensated for the equipment, time, energy, and aggravation. A lot of 
remailers have shut down recently. Is this helping the cause of privacy 
and free speech?

I have no complaint against anyone voicing their opinion, and defend 
their right to do so. However, I don't agree that a different set of 
standards somehow applies to those who provide a means to contact the 
providor of web content as a courtesy to their readers. Why does it fall 
to them to provide a completely off-topic forum for someone else's views? 
How are they any different from members of a public mailing list? Must 
the members of c'punks and toad.com accept all unpaid advertising in the 
name of free speech?

> >However, since others may think like you, I guess I'll have to add a line
> >above my link stating that email not related to the purpose of my site
> >will be happily proof-read at the rate of $200 per hour, 1 hour per 60
> >lines, minimum. Perhaps I'll get lucky. If I get a big enough chunk of
> >SPAM(tm), it might be worth the costs of breaking down the anonymity.
> As the legal eagles will tell you, the essence of a contract is a two-way
> agreed upon set of terms, not a one-way "if you send me mail I decide I
> don't want, you will have incurred a charge of $1000." Try enforcing your
> $200 an hour "proofreading charge" in any court in the land.

Sarcasm, Tim. I really wouldn't expect this to work, and doubt anyone 
else would. Just trying to point out that when all else fails, our 
society generally pursues resolution through the courts (could be worse, 
I suppose, but I for one think we are far too prone to this - OTOH, we 
seem to have slipped from "right" to "legally defensible" somewhere back 

> (I've been saying this thing for several years. Who knows, maybe Rabit
> Wombat was the first to use it. Whatever, it's as unenforceable and
> meaningless now as it was several years ago.)

Yes, it is meaningless, legally. It was not meant to be taken seriously, 
any more than the "dead skunks" were. Where the hell would I get 100 dead 
skunks at this time of the night? I don't even know if I have that much 
ammo left over from last weekend.

> >No, this b.s. is more like having someone put a dead skunk in my mailbox,
> >with no return address, trying to prevent me from sending them 100 dead
> >skunks as a return favor. And about as welcome.
> In the case of actual USPS mailboxes, there are laws which prevent others
> from using them (e.g., no UPS or FedEx deliveries). For sure, dead skunks
> can be placed in mailboxes, or under porches, or whatever. The law can't
> fix everything.

No, and it ought to be the last resort.

- r.w.