At 12:25 02/01/99 , email@example.com wrote:
>I see serious problems in making unsolicited commercial email illegal.
>It sets a number of dangerous precedents. Email is a protocol which
>we voluntarily engage in. Spammers are using the protocol in a manner
>in which we allowed but did not intend. Throwing people in jail for
>this is going to mean that using any information protocol in the future
>will be fraught with danger. There will be gray areas in terms of what
>is intended and what is not intended, and it ends up making the laws
>capricious and enforced at the whim of judges and prosecutors.
You don't prohibit things without warning. You tell people that since
this creates problems, from now on it should be prohibited.
If you poke me in the eye with a fork, which wasn't it's intended use,
you go to jail - and there are no problems with it.
There is a Robot Exclusion Protocol now that is followed by most
spiders, and could be officially legalized.
There can be a similar protocol for automatically collecting email
addresses from the usenet postings and Web pages.
If you tell in your page or posting in a standard way that you don't
want this email to be collected by any program, this desire should
be respected, just as your desire not to list your phone number, or
not to open your door to strangers.
Mass unsolicited mail can be considered everything that is directed to a large group (> 500?) people that the author had no previous contact with and/or who directly indicated that they don't want any unsolicited mail and/or the message is unrelated to the topic of the group's discussion (e.g., "Visit my porn site" message on comp.ai.alife) and/or have misleading titles (e.g. "thanks for last night" with the text "Buy bricks from Smith & Co".)
Such standards would be easily and unambiguously formulated and enforced in a variety of ways. I think it will be done at some point; the lack of interest in filtering software is that it's not compatible with many clients, doesn't work with many services (Web, Usenet, guestbooks, etc.) and takes money and effort to buy and use.