[lug] off topic, spam laws

D. Stimits stimits at idcomm.com
Mon Feb 11 00:58:28 MST 2002

Peter Hutnick wrote:
> On Sunday 10 February 2002 09:23 pm, D. Stimits wrote:
> > I am considering trying to get some legislation passed that would make
> > it a criminal offense to forge headers during commercial advertisement.
> I think that criminalizing theft of service would make more sense.  I was
> posting to this list with forged headers for a while, because I was out of
> town and had to use a different ISPs SMTP server.  I'm afraid that
> "commercial" and "advertisement" would get too blurry, and forging headers is
> often a legitimate thing to do.  You also avoid any first amendment issues.
> (Would this equate to giving a fake name while handing out leaflets on a
> street corner?  Is that protected speech?)

Possibly, but I am thinking more in terms of truth in advertising. If I
walk into a business and see a business license on the wall, I expect it
to be real, not a forgery. And if I find out it is a fake license, I
expect to see the business shut down. So I agree about all the open
relays, but someone stupid enough to have an open relay leaves a gray
area about whether leaving it open means it is no longer private. So
although I see the point about the blur, I guess it could be rephrased
something like "email used to solicit business must be unaltered as to
identity; the solicitor must make it known who they are, without
fraudulent hiding of the true origins of the email". Free speech and
handing out leaflets on the corner isn't generally for the purpose of
taking your money. If a business on the local street does so, they are
licensed, or at least identifiable and able to be held accountable.
Would it be less of a blur to say that advertising by wire should be
required to accurately provide information about its origins? This is
one of my questions, how to word such a thing. Somehow I would like to
see it limited in scope to the intentional altering of identity and
origins of advertisement by wire when it is for commercial gain.

> The biggest part of the problem is open relays and people who abuse them.
> This is sort of covered by Rob's post about RBL.  Beyond RBL, it would be
> less attractive to steal service in this way if it was an actual crime with
> actual enforcement.

I will have to read up on RBL. One thing I don't want to do is have to
pay a service an extortion fee to keep the rights that are already mine.
That is a bit too much like handing over my wallet to a mugger.

> This wouldn't stop spam, but it would largely change the economics.

This is the key. Right now there is no cost to any form of spam, at
least not for the spammer. Headers are forged, or throw-away free
accounts are used. Open relays are found via network scanners, not by
consent. Root kits are installed, and used as the base of operations. I
would like to see this change. First, free access to be slowed. Second,
definite bounds established on what kind of identity hiding can be used
to evade spam laws.

> Of course a key factor is that people wouldn't send spam if they didn't make
> money doing it.  So to some extent it is "our" fault as consumers for making
> it profitable.

I never give a penny to a spammer. I turn them in. I look through the
headers, and inform everyone. Well, except for the huge batch that
originates in Korea or China, in a language and character set my machine
can't even display. About half of them do originate from hotmail or
yahoo or lycos type accounts, but have html content that refers to other

> > The Constitition [sic] says one of our most fundamental rights is the right
> > to be
> > left alone, I do not believe the issue is as trivial or petty as it sounds.
> Could you provide a reference for that?  The closest thing I can think of is
> fourth amendment right "of the people to be secure in their persons, houses,
> papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures" which
> protects us from our own government, but certainly not foreign businesses.

Rob Riggs found it. Apparently its source is further reaching than the
Constitution. But what I do recall is from a law class in business
school long ago. Perhaps it was in context of the government, I don't
remember, but the attorney teaching the course had said that the right
to be left alone is one of the most fundamental rights.

> (As a side note, there seems to be an apocryphal popular belief in a "right
> to privacy" provision in the Constitution, which is used to buttress
> "abortion rights."  If anyone has a reference, let me know.)
> I don't think that the spam problem is trivial or petty, either, but I hardly
> think it violates our Constitutional protections.

All law has as its ultimate source an authority the Constitution. At
least within the USA. If the USA participates in UN laws, then those
laws in turn gather power from our own Constitution. I'll have to read a
bit closer to find more references.

D. Stimits, stimits at idcomm.com

> -Peter
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