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ISP Sues Spammer 125

Stephen writes "UK ISP Virgin Net is suing a former subscriber for loss of business caused by his alleged spam. " The subscriber supposedly spammed a quarter of a million people (advertising his email address list no less!) and got the ISP on the blacklist. It'll be interesting to see where this one goes. I personally think that we should legalize spam, but require the word 'SPAM' or 'AD' to appear in th subject so we can procmail it out. Or just set our sendmails up to discard it. And I think failure to clearly label spam should be punishable by death.
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ISP Sues Spammer

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  • Yes, there is a telco analogy. War dialers and telemarketing auto diallers. Both of these are illegal.

    It is not so much an issue of what information is being sent, but the fact that it is being bulk sent to individuals/ companies who have not requested it. There are laws which limit conventional telemarketing to only certain hours, etc. This anology being made, I disagree with it philisophically.

    The problem truly is that there is very little practical way to enforce any spam related legislation. Adopting a law wont prevent the problem, it only punishes the worst of them (should they get caught) after the fact.

    The only way to limit the misuse of technology, is to build precautions into the technology. I dont simply rely on law enforcement to find people who hack into my site, I install firewalls, use strong encryption, etc. to limit the number of people who *can* get thru (someone always can tho, I just make my site less of an appealing target).

    One good solution would be for the industry to accept the use of X509 certificates to authenticate the E-Mail author. There can then be lists and/ or services which either block network traffic, or kill the message upon receipt.

    Law enforcement is extremely limited in their ability to police the net, and its traffic. This is a good thing. However, us tech heads need to take on the challenge ourselves. We created this wonderfull, glorious mess, so we must fix it and make it better. Adding infilstructure which by its nature prevents abuse via technology is the only solution which has a prayer of reining in these newbie itiots who never apparwenly have heard the term 'nettiquite'.

    Just my little 'us geeks control the system, so *we* must deal with it' rant.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "snailmail spam only wastes my time, not my money as well..." I can't see how e-mail SPAM is a waste of your money unless you're paying for your bandwidth by the amount of data you are transfering every month, or are paying for a long distance call (don't even get me started on the FCC crap surrounding telephone calls and the internet *ugh*). *Most* people will pay a flat monthly fee for their service regardless of what or how long per day they are using their service. So the argument that SPAM is costing you the *end user* is not valid as far as the cost of service is concerned. I view it like this: SPAM is an undefeatable evil, it will always be around in many forms...glossy ads crammed in your mailbox, e-mail about the new ProWhacker 9000 golf balls or "Steamy Sultry Suzie wants to Suck You Dry", or some schmooze calling you during dinner to get you to subscribe to the Chronicle when you already get the Tribune. All of these examples are a waste of time and resources, yet we deal with them everyday. But how many times do you hear someone bitch about e-mail spam as opposed to bitching about getting a snail-mail ad from AT&T to get you to join I would say I hear about 100 complaints for e-mail for every complaint about snail mail or phone solicitation. I work for an ISP and you wouldn't believe (OK, maybe you would) the number of SPAM complaints that we process on a daily basis. Do you know how many man-hours we spend poring over this crap? It's a significant amount of time. We probably consume equal amounts of bandwith about SPAM complaints as we do with the SPAM itself, so complaining about SPAM is somewhat self-defeating and equally as wasteful on bandwidth resources as the SPAM itself. Don't get me wrong, I am not condoning SPAM in any way shape or form. It would be a glorious day if I were to wake up and not fine one advert for Sears or an e-mail about "Not MLM" or not have some guy knock on my door to peddle the local paper. Unfortunately, as we move further into the "information age" as all of the news pundits like to put it, all manner of media is going to continue to be saturated with mindless ads and glossy photos of the next hottest thing. I think if bandwidth concerns are the whole issue driving the SPAM crusade then enacting some sort of identifier for SPAM ala the "ADV:" or "SPAM:" tag in the subject header would actually do more to curtail bandwidth waste and lost time than anything else. E-mail clients can be modified and sendmail filters can be designed to look for this tag and then the user or administrator can define what to do with the offending pieces of mail. If an end-user's e-mail client retrieves the mail headers from his mailbox and scans the subjects for these tags rather than downloading the whole message and then hitting 'Delete' then they can make the program nuke mail off of the servers before it is even downloaded over their pitiful 28.8 thus helping to minimize the amount of bandwidth it takes to police e-mail. I'm sure not everyone will agree with me, but self-policing is really the only way we can do anything to reduce the evil armies of SPAM senders into a quivering mass of unidentifiable pork products. -Brian
  • by hadron ( 139 )
    Yeah, then what will happen is that spam will have your e-mail address in the "To:" field.
  • What do you mean by that?
  • Your opinion is a common misconception. Spam differs from junkmail in that it requires the resources of the receiving end for it to be delivered. Spammers have no regard for this. I work as a sysadmin for a small college, and I have seen first hand what the real detrimental effects of spam are. In a number of instances, a spammer has sent a (very) large amount of mail to e.g. AOL with a forged return address at our domain. Sometimes upwards of 50,000 of the addresses they attempted to spam were invalid, so 50,000 bounce messages will come hurtling our way from AOL. This has tied our mail server up in knots and effectively cut off email access to our entire campus for hours at a time. Junkmail has no similar effects; the analogy is a broken one. Spam causes *real* damage to its receivers.
  • Computing Canada reports that ISP Internet Direct has won their lawsuit against a spammer. No word on the exact amount they were awarded though.

    Here's the whole story:
    Headline "Ontario court sends spammer a message"
  • I hate to reply to what appears to be flame bait, however spam is a case of market failure, in the same way that pollution is (the spammers only find e-mail so cheap because others are footing the bill).

    The market is not always perfect as there are things which cannot be accounted for by pricing products, and this is one such case.
  • Posted by Mike@ABC:

    I agree with Rob in that folks should be free to send clearly labeled spam. However, I also think that spammers should foot the bill for sending it instead of the ISP. With tracking software what it is today, it would be really easy for ISPs to charge spammers, who might be less likely to use this tactic if they had to pay for it.

  • Posted by bwalter:

    No, don't charge people. Bottom line: rub it out. Make it illegal. It's illegal to approach someone's home and pester them if they've got a 'No Solicitor's' sign out front in a few US States, so why can't spam be counted in that?

    You can set up special rules you want; in the end the spam still uses the bandwidth. Think of your email, and what percentage of it is spam.

    Put an end to it. Kill it. There's no middle ground for this kind of personal affront.
  • Posted by FascDot Killed My Previous Use:

    DON'T legalize labelled spam. It isn't just mailboxes filling up that's the problem. You apparently have a dim idea that this is the case since you made that sendmail comment, but the spam would still be running over the network.

    STOP spam!
  • My school found themselves on a blacklist (although not this particular one) after being simply used as a spam relay (true, we shouldn't have had our servers configured to allow relaying.) This list, incidentally, happened to be maintained by my ISP and was used by hundreds of others. Since I was a customer, I was able to quickly get us off the blacklist but not quick enough to totally prevent headaches.
  • I do agree that spam and large email distribution
    lists are very close (I run my own email
    lists, so I do care how spam is treated to make
    sure that I won't be affected). However, I would
    think in today's day and age that if you are an
    ISP, you would block large mass emailings, and
    then have your customers come to you to ask to
    unblock this feature so they can run legit
    email lists, with explicit explaination of
    why such large lists are needed. If that
    later turns to spam, then the ISP can easily
    pull the account.

    And again, in this particular case, the ISP
    failed 4 times to stop this from happening.
    The lawsuit is there to close the barn doors
    after the cows have all fled.
  • According to the article, the spammer had *4*
    opportunities (not simulataneously) to spam
    the number of messages that he did.

    Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice,
    shame on me.

    The ISP should have kicked in a mail filter that
    would block such large numbers of message being
    sent at nearly the same time. The fact
    they didn't implies they didn't really care
    then, and only until *they* were blacklisted
    did they seem to take steps (and as indicated
    elsewhere, one spam abuse doesn't get you on
    the list; it's the repeated spam abuse).

    this sounds similar to the women suing credit
    card companies for money she lost by internet
    gambling; not seeing the light until all was
    said and done.
  • Legalize SPAM, but we need to change the FORMAT email takes. There should be a "CLASS" field added to the spec, which states whether the email is "SPAM", "BUSINESS", "PERSONAL", "HUMOR", or "ACADEMIC". (others can be added by more imaginative people)
    ("Commercial" would not do enough to differentiate what I get from a customer or co-worker, in terms of useful communication, from what I get from a SPAMmer).

    mis-setting the class field should be punishable by having 20 pounds of monkey shit crammed up the offender's nose.
  • Not as bad as a death threat?

    Forcing me to read a SPAM due to misrepresentation STEALS a few precious seconds from my life. It would be the same if someone saw me fall off of a building, and moments before I hit the ground, fired a shotgun blast at my head. Stole a few seconds from my life, and still guilty of murder.

    Same goes for idiots who drive too slow in the left lane, or come to a complete stop before turning right off a busy street, or stop when the traffic light turns yellow.

    Same goes for people who design OS-es that take too long to boot.

    Same goes for "First Post"-ers.

    Murderers. Killers. Life-stealers. Time-theives.
  • Why not? What do you think you do when you subscribe to a cable TV network? Or buy a TV, for that matter? Or get a telephone line hookup? These are channels for advertising as well...ones that people pay for.
  • One solution that I quite liked was suggested by Esther Dyson in Release 2.1 (although I'm sure it's been suggested by someone before that). She said that if you charged people for sending you email then spamming would either stop or at least become more targetted.

    Of course, there is currently no method of doing this (I doubt sending the spammer and invoice for your lost time would work :), but it's an interesting thought.
  • Sending spam creates the problem that the ISP has a major load on its systems. Or better said, a non standard load. We all demand from our ISP that the mail we sent is delivered without problems. This is ofcourse no problem in normal surcomstances.

    In the event that the law allows spam, the ISP will probably include a no-spam claim in its licence to the users. If this is not done the standaard changes. The normal load becomes that of normal mail, plus spam. It will cost the ISP a lot of money to allow spam in the regions of: "new equipment" and "traffic"

    Point is, if spam is allowed, it won't be to much of a problem. withing not to long all ISP's will have the problem covered on technical and contract side.

    Now that leaves just the problem that death sentences aren't legal everywhere ;-)

  • If spam is legalised in its current form in any way, it will still be the redistribution of network bandwidth and disk space to parasitic advertisers. And being legitimate, it will escalate and become even more of a blight on the Net.

    The only way that spam could be legitimised was if the advertiser paid for it. If it was conducted over a protocol other than SMTP (as it currently is), where each message was accompanied by payment (or by an account number and credit limit; the server would send it only to as many networks as the credit amount would cover). Receiving servers would be reimbursed for resources used, and advertisers would be billed. Also, fraudulent advertisers could lose their accounts. This could then translate to an alternative to banner ads for free POP/IMAP accounts; users get a metered amount of legit-spam in return for the free account.

    Other than something like this, spam is theft of services, plain and simple.

  • I may be entirely wrong about this, but I think here in good old blighty, sending unsolicited commercial email would (or possibly should) leave you liable to prosecution under the Data Protection act; either under the bit about holding personal information about people without registering it with the Data Registrar, or under the other bit about abusing this personal information.

    Personally, I think I should be allowed to charge a license fee for the use of my email address - after this is _my_ personal information.
  • Then you scan the message text for the strings "Murkowski" and "S.1618". ;-)
  • by blayd ( 3655 )

    Actually, it's pretty easy. Just check to see if the "To:" field has your e-mail address in it.

    Naturally, you will want to create exceptions for any legitimate mailing lists you may subscribe to.

    Scott Banwart
    Better to stay silent, and let people think
    you're an idiot than to open your mouth and

  • My favorite part of the story was after the first time he got caught the spammer said it was an "accident".

    He just accidentally sent an e-mail to 10 million people.

    Yeah uh-huh, pull the other one, its gots bells on it!
  • Don't know if you are a college student or not, but I am continually bombarded with calls from credit card companies in my dorm room. A few weeks ago, there was some company (don't remember which offhand since I've taken to just hanging up on them now) that would call at 8:30am EVERY DAY asking for either my roommate or me. Suffice to say, that gets really old after a while.

    As far as asking to be taken off the list, well, I've done that, but there's just so many damn companies out there that it hasn't helped. I think for every company that I ask to take me off their list, 3 more add me to their list. Bleh.

    -mike kania
  • The envelope is the information used in SMTP. As far as SMTP is concerned, the headers and body are one long stream of bytes. The mail server has to decide whether or not to accept a message before it sees the headers.
  • As far as I've been able to tell, Spam should (or already does) fall under the same laws governing phone solicitation. I for one *always* tell telemarketers that I'm not interested and to take me off their lists. They are legally required to comply by the FCC. The biggest complaint I have is not that I recieve spam - it's that 9 times out of 10, the return address is a load of hooey. Granted, I could hunt down who sent it, but it's not worth my time when I can simply delete it. Wouldn't it make more sense to simply throw spam under the same laws, require a working return address, and require that all requests to "remove this address from your lists" be complied with?
  • A Subject: line is better than nothing, but we shouldn't overload it. Maybe someone wants to send email that happens to have that string of characters in the subject.

    Better to use a different mail header expressly for this purpose.


  • SPAM is different from snail mail. With the Post Office, you pay for each item delivered. It may be a small amount, but it adds up. With the SPAM, it is the carrier (i.e., the ISP), and ultimately the end user who pays for the bandwidth. This is why junkmail FAXING is illegal. This is why SPAM should be illegal.

    See the CAUCE [] home page

  • "Filtering" requirements currently under discussion are generally bogus, since they still put the burden on the ISP or end user (i.e., I still end up paying for SPAM even if I don't receive it), but...

    ...think what might happen if the cockroaches discover that 99.9999% of their 10 million addresses are getting bounced? The practice might quietly die on its own...

    Unfortunately, labeling requirements are difficult to enforce, since a large portion of the problem is small time operators working out of their homes, using software they bought for $39.95. Who's going to track down all those people?

  • It's not the same thing...

    And I don't think they are really interested in the contents of whatever it is that gets sent. All that the ISP needs to know is that the subscriber sent something that caused the whole ISP to get on the shitlist, which is obviously not good for business. And it's not something the ISP could have prevented either, without them filtering messages for content, which isn't a good idea either.

    And to take a shot at an analogy:
    What if some J. Random Person got a phonecall from some guy threatening to kill him, or whatever. JRP doesn't like this, and sues the phone company.

    Then what? Should the phone company just pay up and let it go? I don't think so, so I think they should be able to sue the sender.

  • In the last part: "The European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC) has lobbied for governments to have the right to block advertising and marketing that violates their own laws rather than leave it to the country of origin."

    *sigh* Will they ever understand? And this is coming from a consumer organisation?

    Any kind of government-mandated filtering is doomed to be incomplete, because people will make copies of the material, and especially the kind of people who would engage in ripping off consumers, and thus evade the filter.

    But it will also give governments a change to filter other kinds of stuff they don't like; just label it "bad marketing" or whatever.

    What happened to educating people? Europeans don't have as much Internet-experience as Americans, but does that mean that we have to be treated like children here?
    What happened to your own reponsibility?

    I really feel sick because of this kind of ignorance.
  • It's not the content of his messages that is the root of the suit, but the quantity thereof, and the ill effects ("loss of business") that resulted from his actions.

    You can use the phone to talk about how bad the phone company is, even to make plans to blow up the local office. No worries. But if you actually carry out that plan...

    Or, look at it this way: you pay for a certain amount of service. You use way more without paying for it. Your abuse causes other customers to lose access. You cause your provider to incur significant costs to clean up the mess. You are liable, regardless of what you used the excess services for.

  • The ISP only really has an interest in the content if that content harms the ISP in some way. As you have to enter into a contract with the ISP when you sign up, part of which is an agreement not to send spam, the ISP is quite within it's legal (and moral, IMO) rights to sue.

    Remember, this guy knew that he was breaking the agreement, and that he was abusing the system.

  • How would the IRS (mutatus mutandi for other nations besides the USA) tax spam? Does it count as income? What if the spammer is a not for profit organization? At least with drug dealers, the IRS has a clear interest: income not declared from drug sales is taxable income and the dealers commit tax evasion. The interest in the case of spammers is not so clear.

    A better idea, perhaps, is to place reasonable limits on the number of emails that a person can send each month. Say, two thousand, with an additional one thousand per month for extra costs. When they run out, they have to cough up an extra five bucks or forget about sending email for the remainder of the month. Each address one sends to constitutes a separate email. Any comments on this?

  • What he said. Or, to put it my own way...

    Are you *nuts*, Rob? If the spam "warning" goes in the Subject line, you wouldn't be able to filter it until the SMTP DATA parameter. By that time, the spammer has already stolen from you, making the point moot.

    I could understand labeling earlier in the transaction -- like, right after HELO -- but labeling in the Subject line is useless. (This was the point of California's Bowen bill, BTW, memorialized inCalifornia Business & Professions Code 17538.4. See /bpc_17538-4_full.html [] for the full text.)


  • Imaginative. Descriptive.

    A little over the top, perhaps?
  • But wouldn't adequately labelled spam (in some sort of e-mail header) be filterable at pretty much any level? Either at the originating ISP, or anywhere else along the path?

    Furthermore, this wouldn't prevent ISPs from still prohibiting UCE as part of their Acceptable Use Policy.
  • I don't think there should be anything wrong with setting up a mailing list or other system that sends out mass mailing (like vger). However, it's quite different when you use an ISP's mail gateway to send out mass mailings. Slashdot "pays" for the bandwidth for each message (I assume). Spammers generally send only a few emails with tons of recipients and the ISP mail gateways "generate" the traffic. If spammers would pay for a full T1 or fractional T3 line in order to send out mass mailings, more power to them. They would have to get a permanent IP address and we could block that. But, "relaying" mass email through and ISP gateway is evil.

    (I assume that Slashdot sends out individual news updates because my name is on the subject line.)
  • I think there's more to this story than the article tells us. From what I know of the Real Time Blackhole List ( []) and the people who run it, an ISP has to be pretty clueless in order to get onto it in the first place. According to their RBL candidacy page [], they try their best to reason with the ISPs of the spammers and, if possible, to only Blackhole the spammers themselves.

    I'd be interested in hearing what the RBL folks have to say about this situation.

  • Sounds like a good idea to me. I have actually seen a couple NG posters with similar statements in their .sigs. (...persuant to amendment blah blah under the FCC 12.3.456..I'm sure that is WAY off, but you get my drift) I think I'll come up with a like tagline for my email sig and follow through.

  • This is truely a clueless ISP. Not only did they not notice on their own, but before anyone ever gets blacklisted, every attempt is made to confront the offender throught RFC (822 is it?) required postmaster@, as well as any other means available.

    Blacklisting a relay is not done lightly. Moreover, the recipients of the spam no doubt sent many, many complaints to this ISP which were either BOUNCED or IGNORED. Either, way, the ISP had plenty of warning. They deserve everything they get, and although the spammer is of course the original cause of the problem, I don't think you can sue a spammer for your own ignorance/lazyness. Unfortunately, the internet is becomeing more and more of a war-zone, and if an ISP can't take the heat, then they should get out of the kitchen.

    People don't get blacklisted on a whim.


  • And to take a shot at an analogy: What if some J. Random Person got a phonecall from some guy threatening to kill him, or whatever. JRP doesn't like this, and sues the phone company.
    Then what? Should the phone company just pay up and let it go? I don't think so, so I think they should be able to sue the sender.

    I don't think that analogy is a very good one. For one thing, the nature of the content is different: spam e-mails are annoying and a waste of computing resources, but (generally) aren't as bad as, say, death threats.

    Secondly (someone correct me if I'm wrong?), I believe even phone companies can enforce terms of use agreements, to some degree. When I started getting faxes at my home phone number at 3 am, I called my phone company's abuse line to let them know. They couldn't help, unfortunately, but there is an avenue of recourse there.

    Thirdly and finally: unless you're calling collect, it's the advertiser/threatener who pays for the call. A better analogy would have been if someone had called you collect to try to sell you something. I have the option of not allowing a collect call through: ISPs don't have the same option with e-mail.

  • I.D. Internet Direct. Ltd. successful in suit
    against junk emailer

    Press Release: I.D. Internet Direct. Ltd. successful in suit against junk emailer

    April 1, 1999, Toronto - In the first successful lawsuit of its kind in Canada,
    independent Internet service provider (ISP) I.D. Internet Direct Ltd. today announced
    that the court has ruled in its favour in its recent application for an injunction against
    junk emailer Cory Altelaar. The ruling grants I.D. Internet Direct. Ltd. an injunction
    preventing Cory Altelaar from delivering junk email through its systems and awards
    the ISP a reimbursement of its legal costs.

    "This is a ground-breaking ruling in the struggle against junk email in Canada," says
    John Nemanic, President of I.D. Internet Direct. Ltd. "If Mr. Altelaar violates the court
    order and attempts to use our services for junk email again, he'll be looking at some
    serious charges."

    Nemanic says that his company received several calls and emails of support from other
    ISPs who were similarly abused by junk emailers (also known as "spammers"). "We
    want to thank our lawyer, Andrew Lundy of Brunner and Lundy, for his fine work in
    this case," says Nemanic. "This ruling sends junk emailers a serious message: this
    activity is not legally acceptable in Canada. You can try to hide, but you will be caught
    and risk prosecution if you abuse the Internet."
  • I have no problem with this idea, The small bit of network load wouldn't be to bad imho. (Still, you might want to make that: Clearly labeled AND smaller than 2048 bytes).

    It wouldn't be a small network load even at 2048 bytes per message. Work the math. 10 million addresses. Say only 1 in 10 is sufficiently legal to cause network traffic ( either deliverable or needs to be relayed so that it won't be found to be undeliverable until after it's been transferred ). At 2K per message, you're looking at 2 gigabytes worth of traffic.

    Somehow the entire burden of spam has to be shouldered by the spammers themselves, either by making it illegal or by having a reliable way to force them to pay for the don't want them to have to foot the bill for transport. And if you want the second, it needs to be after-the-fact and under the control of the recipient. I don't want to make a mailing list foot the bill because I subscribed to it, for example.

  • Labeling solves absolutely none of the problem.
    Spam does not need to exist, it does not need
    to be legalized, and suggesting this is, frankly,

    Three years ago, maybe four, when we didn't know
    much about how spam would shape up, it seemed like
    an interesting idea.

    Now we know a lot more about the economics of
    spam. And no, filtering isn't the solution.

    The solution is simple; ISP's kill accounts and
    web pages and all other services of spammers.
    Spammers eventually run out of ISP's. End of

    I personally don't think we need any new laws;
    just the RBL.
  • If access providers state that their users may not spam, then they ought to sue their users who do! This sounds like a great policy to me! I hope most ISP's adopt this kind of policy to save their own bandwith.
  • If you look at the end of the article it mentions that the EU is going to look at regulating SPAM at the reception end. How are they gonna do this?

    I guess SPAMers will need to have the country of residence for the email address.

  • Why not tax mass Unsolicited EMailings? If thay don't pay the tax, send the IRS (or Insert country's equivalent here) after them.

  • OK, slashdot does have a great bandwith. Of course you can just setup your filters to filter out spam. Not everybody does have similiar bandwith. Some of us run emailservices on lousy 33k6 and 64kbps connection. Don't tell me that spam should be allowed, I see red whenever I hear such a thing. All spam that is sent into mailboxes causes lag for other, more important, mails - and should therefore be punishable by death!

  • Its was this spammer who gacve virgin their spamhaus title, and he spammer from btinternet after/before (i forget the sequence) this.

    If virgin want to make a point out of this, then good luck to them. But they should have been on the ball in the first place, and allowing him to spam a second time was just gross stupidity on their part.

    Now if only all other UK isp's could get a clue (excluding clara, who have always been white hat)

  • Your comments in paragraphs two and three are almost exactly analogous to the following:

    "Theft, I'll admit, is bad, but we'll never be able to eliminate it, so we should just regulate it. Face it, all the time the police spend filing reports and investigating theft just increases the costs. I should know; i work for a police department."

    Furthermore, your understanding of the business you work for is abysmal. Spam is a cost of doing business. Eliminating it eliminates one of your costs and allows you to lower your price. While other ISPs would doubtless be able to do the same, the overall lower price would increase the size of the market, so while you might not get a proportionally larger piece of the pie, the pie would be larger to start with.

    Every ISP should have a contract with its dial-up customers stating costs for sending UBE or spam. Should one substantiated spam complaint arise, that provision of the contract should kick in, and the spammer should be charged accordingly. As someone else indicated, the possibilities for revenue are tremendous. Some would say that this would require teams of lawyers. I would disagree. I would suggest that much spam comes from small business which are unincorporated (evidence to the contrary is encouraged). Whoever created the account will be an individual with a house and a car. It's pretty easy to file a lien against these assets.
  • Forward every piece of spam you get to your Senators and your Representative. The intent here is not to swamp the Congressional mail server (though this may be an unfortunate side effect of not already outlawing spam ;), but to make our Senators and Representatives PERSONALLY aware of what it is we have to deal with. Preface the spam message with the following statement.


    As I'm sure you are aware, unsolicited commercial email (commonly known as "spam") has a deleterious effect on the internet. The cost of this email is borne almost entirely by the recipients, in terms of both higher prices from internet service providers as a result of dealing with spam, and of the time required to wade through the numerous spams received by each individual internet user. While some states have enacted laws to regulate or ban it, the Federal government has so far lagged behind. While spam may well be considered a form of protected speech, it is a commercial form of speech whose cost is borne by the recipients - your constituents. It therefore needs to be regulated. In order to assist you in evaluating the magnitude of this problem, I am forwarding this message, which I received today, as an example of the sort of message which can be sent to anyone with an email address."

  • Sounds like they belong in the clueless ISP category.
  • Excuse me?

    The idea is to put a [SPAM] or [AD] in the header line, not the body of the message. Sure, you still incur some overhead over simply blankly sending out the email, but you aren't wasting gobs of processor time wandering over the content.
  • I like that idea! Starting now, thats how it's gonna be.
  • I have no problem with this idea, The small bit of
    network load wouldn't be to bad imho. (Still, you might want to make that: Clearly labeled AND smaller than 2048 bytes).

    I'm just afraid it's not gonna work. It's a pitty but as long as there are no big actions against spammers and big punishments, nothing will change. Sad but true.

  • and simply put enormous inflatable bumpers on all of our cars, telephone poles, buildings and anything else they might run into.

    C'mon, Rob. I'm sure you can see why it's insane to allow the purveyors of snake oil, pyramid scams, and recursive address extractor apps to keep on dumping out terabytes of content that nobody wants to read about, let alone buy. By the time your procmail script puts spam in the bitbucket, the network resources have already been consumed.

    if (not $horse) {

    Moore's law does not apply to net bandwidth.

  • Post as HTML. Use non-breaking space tag in the textarea input. Hit Preview.

    The preview page will show the nbsp tags as literals, but you'll notice that they're gone from the textarea. Hit Submit.

  • The only way to stop spam is to start hitting the guilty parties in the pocketbook.Spammers clearly don't even care if they send out valid information - we've been hit with spam that advertises non-working URLs!

    Spam is just so cheap that spammers don't even bother with quality control, and they don't worry about irritating people or costing anyone money- they don't have to pay for the cost to the recipients, and even one or two responses pays back the cost of the spam.

    I wish ISPs would realize what an unexplored revenue source spammers are. I claim that the number of people on any given spam list is comparable to a full-page ad in a major newspaper. How much is a full-page ad in say, the Chicago Tribune? Why should spammers be treated any different than for example, Sears, the Democratic Party, or Saks Fifth Avenue? Make them pay for advertising "space," at comparable market value. Make them sign an advertising contract before spamming. People who advertise without paying would incur fees over and above the normal advertising rates. Advertising without a contract
    could be grounds for canceling one's account.

    Spam would automatically go down because most people couldn't afford it. It would automatically be traceable because the ISP makes them sign a contract. It would have valid information and only rarely have duplicate addresses because the spammer (now advertiser) can't afford to send more e-mail than necessary, and can't afford to send a new, correct message.
  • There's an issue here which goes beyond spam, though, that badly needs to be addressed:

    most industrial countries have laws that regulate truth in advertising; if, for example, you advertise a product at price X in California, you are required to sell it at price X, even if the advertisement was in error. Similarly, you aren't allowed to call yourself "organic" produce unless you meet certain rules, etc, etc.

    The internet blows these rules out of the water. If someone in Germany is advertising something as organic in a way which is legitimate under their laws but not under California's, and I buy something which is kinda-sorta-not-really organic from them, can I sue? Under California law I probably can; how does it get resolved?

    More to the point are situations where the actual advertisement would be illegal in both countries, but because of jurisdictional issues it's impossible to prosecute --- as if California insisted that I had to sue in German court, but Germany insisted that I had to sue in California court.

    Countries asking for the right to block advertisements and spam is a first step towards trying to resolve _this_ issue, not just the spamming issue. I'm not certain I like the direction the steps are going in --- but then, too, i'm not certain I know what the right solution is, either.
  • As long as the reciever is paying for the
    bandwidth he/she uses spam should be illegal.

    Nobody should have to pay to recieve ads.
  • I may be entirely wrong about this, but I think here in good old blighty, sending unsolicited commercial email would (or possibly should) leave you liable to prosecution under the Data Protection act...

    "Should", maybe. "Would", no, alas. The DPR [] got a complaint from me about ProPhoto (the spammer in question here). They wrote back after a while to tell me that they would be taking no action. It's possible they just put the fear into Adrian Paris without actually prosecuting, I suppose, but on the face of it the DPR is pretty toothless when it comes to dealing with spammers. I get the impression that they're trying to learn about the Internet but they don't really know enough to be effective at the moment.

  • ...but the implications of government filtering internet comminucation (email or otherwhise) is really worrisome. A little too Big-Brother-ish.
  • when spam causes a mailserver to be too busy to accept real mail (this really happens) who is responsible for the messages that arent received by the time the information has become stale?

    I have had an instance where I received 100,000 peices of bounce mail from some a bulk email company and it stopped an important message to be delayed by 4 hours .... the message was telling the person that there was an important meeting they had to be at 1 hour before he got the message.
  • I think they should'nt stop with just sueing this man, they should remove his genitalia :)
  • Although I hate spam as much as anybody, this seems to be the wrong front on which to fight it. I think common carrier status for ISP's is a Good Thing. Suing a subscriber based on the contents of their usage implies an interest in that content. Which an ISP shouldn't have.

    Can anybody think of a good phone company analogy?

  • Hmm, you pay for your TV subscription, right ?

    So you're paying to receive ads.

    Am I wrong ?
  • I can't see how e-mail SPAM is a waste of your money unless you're paying for your bandwidth by the amount of data you are transfering every month, or are paying for a long distance call
    Or are in the UK where you pay by the second for phone bills.
  • I really have received spam from Microsoft.

    I must have given them my email address .. I don't remember doing it, I must have been smoking something bizarre when I did it .. but I entered my email address into some or other form on their website (I do NOT remember doing this, but I must have, because it was one of my email aliases I don't normally use.)

    Anyway, I recently start getting these stupid emails about services that aren't even available where I live (Duh, Microsoft, can't you check the TLD?), like that Sidewalk stuff.

    To be fair it gave me two ways to unsubscribe, and I sorta believed MS would really remove me from their lists (not their databases, but their lists) .. so I tried going to their website to unregister. Only problem is, of all websites I've ever visited, is the only one that ALWAYS constantly gives me errors connecting. Not only that, it's damn slow ... in the end I gave up trying to do that, I was getting nowhere.

    So I did the "reply and put unsubscribe in the body of the email" thing. A week later I get another spam from them. So once again, I put 'unsubscribe' in the body of the email and replied again. So far I haven't gotten any new spam from them.
  • This is an important point - spam has nothing to do with content. Whether it's peddling child pornography or requesting charitable donations, it's still not the sender paying the vast majority of the cost that occurs without giving anyone else a say in the matter. And this is why people should object.
  • Just because there's a precedent for spam doesn't make it any better. And there is a _big_ difference...I don't specifically pay for snailmail to get to my mailbox. The advertiser pays to have their crap sent to me. I pay for my internet access, and I'll be damned if I'll let someone waste my money that way. Always nice to have a couple of mail servers under your control to rip the spammer a new asshole and get his account cancelled. At least snailmail spam only wastes my time, not my money as well.

  • Can anybody think of a good phone company analogy?

    Nope, but does the snail mail count as a common carrier? If I send some nasty chemical through the mail and it melts a sorting office machine then I'm sure the post office would want to take some action over it. This guy sent mail that effected the companies machines in a similar way. That the kind of thing you're looking for?

  • Let the great root in the sky sort 'em out.

    I hate spammers AND I hate junk snail-mailers AND I hate telephone solicitors.

    This "direct-marketing database of names, addresses, and phone numbers" nonsense is getting REAL old. If I've never bought anything from you or requested information from you, you shouldn't have my name, address, or phone number. Period.

    The notion that I have to ASK to be taken off your list is stupid, too. By the reasoning, you have to ASK me to stop whacking you with a baseball bat.

    /* Some of my posts are very serious and thoughtful. Some are just rants. Guess which one this was. */
  • What, you can't indent your code? :)

    Also, is this function under a GPL or a BSD-style license?

    /* Counting the days until Rob modifies the scripts to stop me from posting. */
  • That's a twisted, evil, and thoroughly amusing idea. :)

    Should be pretty simple -- just write a standard spam bulk mailer program but add a timebomb. Give it away for free. Let the spammer go for a few days, then format the drive.

    I'm not advocating this, but it does make me smile.
  • Where I live there are five television stations (six, if you speak french) that all broadcast on the standard band - all you need is an antenna.

    Cable here basically just pipes in content from other cities - you're paying for the sattellite time, not the commercials.
  • The problem truly is that there is very little practical way to enforce any spam related legislation. Adopting a law
    wont prevent the problem, it only punishes the worst of them (should they get caught) after the fact.
    The only way to limit the misuse of technology, is to build precautions into the technology. I dont simply rely on law enforcement to find people who hack into my site, I install firewalls, use strong encryption, etc. to limit the number of people who *can* get thru (someone always can tho, I just make my site less of an appealing target).

    You make an interesting point - but if I were to draw an analogy, it would be this:
    "Adopting a law won't prevent someone from breaking into your house, it only punishes them after the fact. I don't simply rely on law enforcement to find people who steal from me, I install better locks, put bars on my windows, to limit the number of people who *can* get thru (someone always can tho, I just make my home less of an appealing target.)"

    I work for an ISP - we pay by the packet for our upstream bandwidth. When someone sends me spam, it costs us money. Therefore they are stealing from us.
  • The biggest problem with spam is bandwidth loss. There are a million programs out there that let you take care of clearing your mailbox, and there are plenty of ways to keep yourself off of spam lists, but there's no way to regain lost bandwidth.

    Here's a tip for keeping your email account spam-free: get a hotmail account, and use it for all internet registration and anything else that can be seen by a webcrawler or grabbed for a mailing list. Then all of the spam goes to Hotmail, and M$ ends up paying for it. :)
  • Well, just a thought perhaps.

    In Australia, there is a guy who clearly labels his letter box and invoices people and businesses $75 per hit for his time incurred having to attend to their physical junk mail. He is well within his legal rights to do this, and is making a tidy sum from it. (Not to mention discouraging time wasters!)

    Maybe thinking like this could be applied to spammers, after all, they are in many instances taking up our valuable time, and bandwidth which as someone else mentioned, we do have to pay for.
  • I guess you don't remember Agis and spammers then. Agis gave the spammers a free reign on its network. The spam flowed like the mississippi and everyone got pissed off at Agis and firewalled them off. Agis now has about the best anti-spam record in the industry.

    I'm sorry, but how would you feel if you were an ISP and someone ran a huge spam run against your users and your mail server ground to a halt under the load, with millions of undeliverable messages and what not.
  • That is different. With Cable TV, part of the cost of the subscription is offset by ads. ie, without the ads, cable TV would be more expense.

    With spam, the opposite is true. Without spam, your bandwidth needs go down, your mail server doesn't need to work as hard, and your mail server also doesn't need to store all the crap it has to now. Spam doesn't offset prices, it increases them.
  • by An Ominous Cowbird ( 33953 ) on Tuesday April 20, 1999 @10:49AM (#1924970)
    There are several reasons why Spam is a Bad Thing. Here are some of the main ones:

    1. You end up paying for it whether you want it or not. If your ISP makes you pay for every message you get or every gigabyte of traffic, you have to pay for something you didn't ask for, don't want and will never use. Anybody on here who gripes about getting Windows with a nascent Linux-only computer should recognize the feeling. Even if you have a flat rate account your ISP has to spend time, effort and perhaps money to keep up with the flow of spam, and that translates directly into higher fees for you. (The junk mail analogy doesn't really apply here. The sender pays for junk mail; the receiver pays for spam.)

    2. The few spams that are potentially of interest are drowned out by fraudulent get-rich-quick schemes, porno ads, ads for spam generators and the like. Yeah, right, like I'm going to buy something based on the say-so of someone with a fake e-mail address who posted his spam from a dial-up account.

    3. Spam clogs the Net just by its sheer volume. Just think, if you could get rid of spam all that space would be available for information of interest (and it would be a substantial amount!).

    Personally, I think spam should be lumped in with the "junk fax" law, and for the same reasons. It may happen, at least here in Washington; one anti-spam activist here in Washington took to forwarding the spam he got to everyone in the state legislature. He then went on to say (paraphrasing), "The next day I had several requests to turn off the flow of spam because it was clogging their mailboxes. That same day [a bill tightening spam regulations] passed out of conference..."

    Caw Caw
  • Our company has a server farm that we maintain. The bandwidth consumed by our network costs money. When someone spams through our servers, or to users on our network, it uses bandwidth, and bandwidth costs money.

    It's a great idea to set up filters, or real return addresses, or laws to prevent this. But don't forget that it uses bandwidth, which, just like gasoline for your car, costs money.

    For this reason our company has recently billed a mail-bomber for network usage. We intend to collect on this, as it was a significant usage.
  • If folks sending unsolicited email to multiple parties were compelled to use the "junk" priority that was put into the email standard it would solve a lot of the problems. It would be much easier to filter them, and sendmail servers would be able give them the lower prioity in delivery that they deserve.
  • Letting someone else (government?) do the regulation for you is always risky - they might filter out more than just spam. Also, many free Internet services use "spam" as a legitimate means of financing the service they are offering you.

    If you get an email from a Yahoo affiliate, and you are using Yahoo email, are you offended? I am not, but I want to have the power to stop receiving messages from that particular mailer. and every successful Internet marketing company knows that and gives you an easy way to get removed from the list (Yoyodyne, Digital Impact, Post Communications, etc.) Marketers are aware that you better not annoy your potential customer, or you might loose him or her forever. And that's even more true on the web, where the competitor is just a click away.

    However, some regulation makes sense, mostly to take care of the stupid marketers. A gentle way to enforce some basic guidelines has been introduced in California:

    Californi a Toughens Laws On Unsolicited E-Mail Ads []

  • If you could find somewhere in your account terms and conditions that you are promised timely and instant messaging via e-mail, you could conceivably have a case against the ISP (and persumably, they could pursue action against the spammer).

    Since you are using a message medium that basically makes no such timeliness guarantees (and tell me if your ISP DOES...I'm changing over...), there's absolutely no grounds for your complaint. You might as well sue your post-office for that Christmas card that was delayed for 5 months.
  • I totally disagree. There are certainly legitimate reasons for sending out mass mailings. The obvious things that comes to mind are large-distribution mailing lists, or corporate mailing lists where receivers *requested* the information.

    Think about SlashDot's Headline News sent out every-night. I can easily imagine a few thousand emails being sent on a nightly basis. Instead of making it a policy that legitimate users of the Internet and mass-mailings at-large are punished, those who abuse the system should be punished. In my opinion, Virgin is absolutely within their rights to pursue action against someone who repeatedly violated stated account policies. I would imagine their financial losses can be pretty severe, and I hope the court finds for their cause an appropriate amount.

    That doesn't mean "spammers" don't have a place on the Internet to pursue their antics (which you apparently advocate). A case could be made for violations of their civil liberties. Fine, let them find service providers who are capable and willing to source such spam-artists.
  • I pay for my email and bandwidth. I don't pay for the junk mail that arrives at my house.

    I agree that I don't see it as a big inconvenience right now -- it has become a fact of life. However, I wouldn't mind it being outlawed. But because that will never happen, we could at least levy a tax on the people doing it. Or maybe the ISP providing the spammers account would have a different kind of account that charged an email tax...


    "The dumber people think you are, the more surprised they're going to be when you kill them."
  • The ISP I work for actually charges customers that spam using our system. Users who send mass unsolicited email through our system will incur a charge of $1000, plus a charge of $25 for each
    spam message sent through our system, $10 for each complaint received by the our staff as a result of the spam, and $25 for each message bounced back to us as a result of the spam.
    Mailbombers will also be billed at the same rate.
  • because MSN has already been on the rbl and subsequently taken off. They actually conformed to the RBL!

    I think hotmail had a few quick stints on the RBL as well.
  • Here in the UK, (terrestrial) TV licensing is only for BBC 1 and BBC 2, which have no adverts. The rest use adverts to support themselves.

    We also have to pay for _all_ phone calls, meaning spam e-mail directly costs us money, even if we delete it on arrival.
  • ya know..we should.. its fun to blame M$ for everything, it just adds a bit more spice to all our lives :).
  • i have to agree, spam isn't really all that bad.

    i mean, i have about as much use for titanium oven mitts as the next guy, and i really don't 10E^50 email addresses, (but hey, doesn't that subliminal seduction tape really work? *cough*)

    But c'mon, it's just like the junkmail you get at home. only you don't have to walk all the way to the garbage can; you get rid of it without leaving your couch. if you really want to bitch, bitch about something worthwhile. junkmail is just junkmail.

  • Is there a Canadian version of this:

    220-By US Code Title 47, Sec.227(a)(2)(B), a computer/modem/printer meets the
    220-definition of a telephone fax machine.
    220-By US Code Title 47, Sec.227(b)(1)(C), it is unlawful to send any
    220-unsolicited advertisement to such equipment.
    220-By US Code Title 47, Sec.227(b)(3)(C), a violation of the aforementioned
    220-Section is punishable by action to recover actual monetary loss, or 500
    220-dollars, whichever is greater, for each violation.

    Charging the people $500 to use you as a relay to send spam would stomp out the problems....
    Alan L. * Webmaster of

Garbage In -- Gospel Out.