It seems everybody has an opinion on everything. Unsolicited e-mail is no different. There are people on the Internet that live for sending it, and others that live to spam those who send it. It is not an issue of who is right and who is wrong it is just a matter of opinion.
Is it Legal?
"US Code Title 47, Sec.227(a)(2)(B), a computer/modem/printer meets the definition of a telephone fax machine. By Sec.227(b)(1)(C), it is unlawful to send any unsolicited advertisement to such equipment. By Sec.227(b)(3)(C), a violation of the aforementioned Section is punishable by action to recover actual monetary loss, or $500, whichever is greater, for each violation."
What does this mean? Who knows. The U.S. government has declared the practice of spamming unlawful, however, there are many grey areas still.
One Point of View...
As an Internet Service Provider (ISP), we see much more of the effects of spamming as do users. We see how it effects our customers, our servers, and the public's perception of companies that do business on the Internet.
Spamming is a numbers game. Spammers send their messages to say 1000 addresses, with hopes of 1/2% response. This means that 995 messages were either returned or sent to people who just did not care. The truth is most users are irritated by this form of solicitation and marketers who use this method do more harm than good for their business.
Have you ever seen a spam from a hospital? How about a spam from AT&T or MCI? My guess is no. Spamming is a form of marketing that irritates many more users than it benefits and therefore companies who care about their reputation do not participate. Spamming is left for the MLM'ers selling magic hair tonic and anti-wrinkle cream. Overall, these spams create a general prejudice on all companies who do business on the Internet, thus slowing the acceptance of on-line commerce.
What is the difference between bulk-mailing and bulk e-mailing? Sending solicitations via the regular mail requires an investment on the senders part. When the mail is received, the recipient has a choice to accept it and read the offer or throw it in the trash. The recipient does not have this choice when sent a unsolicited e-mail however. The message is stored on their server, taking up space. The recipient has no choice but to download the message in order to delete it. Many users still have to pay per minute for Internet service either for connection time or for long distance charges.
More Dangers of Spamming - ISP Rebels...
Although many think the recipients of the spams are the main victim, ISP's (Internet Service Providers) are hurt the most by spammers. Their networks get flooded with spams and both their lines and server slow down causing their customers to go looking elsewhere for a dial-up provider. Recently there has been a new trend for ISP's to get revenge on spammers. The ISP will investigate the spam and find the domain of the spammer. They will then remove that domain (or block the domain) from their name server, thus preventing thousand perhaps even millions of browsers accessability to that domain. The legality issues of this practice are just as nebulous as the legality of spamming itself. Once an ISP blocks your domain from their users, it is very difficult to prove that it is blocked and even more difficult to get this undone.
Anti-Spammer Activists... Ignorant Trouble Makers!
For every spammer you have a ASA (Anti-Spammer Activist). These are the users that attempt to track down the origin of the spam and send a meaningless threat or a vulgar message or every party associated with the address of the spammer. Although some of these ASAs have good intentions, they just create even more junk e-mail flowing through the Internet, slowing down connection times and using up valuable hard disk space that could be better used for storing orders. Why "ignorant"? Very rarely does a spammer use their real e-mail address nor do they send the mail from their ISP's mail server. These spammers do every trick in the book to hide their identity or just use sombody elses. So the majority of the time the flames are directed to the wrong place.
We do not have one. We are not looking to make waves by putting an end to unsolicited e-mail. For many users, this is the only form of marketing they can afford. It is even a cheaper form of advertisement than standing on Hollywood Blvd. handing out flyers with showtimes of the next peep show. What we can do is implement policies that we believe will most benefit our customers and the Internet community in general. At Webbworks, we provide our customers with much information and many tools they can use to market their business so they do not have to resort to spamming.
The Webbworks "No Spamming" Policy Explained
The following is taken from the Webbworks Operating Policy.
"(vii) Advertising, Solicitation and Name Harvesting. We are proud to have a strict "no-spamming" policy. It is a definite violation of Webbworks policy and is cause for immediate termination."
Webbworks reserves the right to terminate any user for spamming (as defined below).
"You may not use Webbworks to send unsolicited advertising, promotional material, or other forms of solicitation to any other Webbworks Subscribers except in those specified areas that are designated for such a purpose (e.g., the classified area) unless you receive the express permission of the Subscriber. You may not use Webbworks to collect or "harvest" screen names of other Subscribers without the express prior permission of the Subscriber."
Users cannot send unsolicited messages in any form to other Webbworks users without their permission ( a request by the user).
"Webbworks reserves the right to block or filter mass email solicitations on or through Webbworks."
Webbworks can block certain know spammers from their servers if it becomes necessary.
"In addition, you a) may not use your Webbworks POP account to send such solicitations"
Users cannot send any unsolicited e-mail message(s)from their Webbworks POP account
b) may not use your domain name or IP address, any sites (names, URL's or IP addresses) belonging to Webbworks, or the Webbworks name in any non-appropriate postings or e-mail solicitations you choose to participate in anywhere on the Internet.
If a user chooses to ignore the advice of Webbworks and use unsolicited e-mail as a form of marketing, they cannot
- list their domain name that resides on their Webbworks server anywhere in the solicitation, including return e-mail addresses
- list their IP address that resides on their Webbworks server anywhere in the solicitation, including return e-mail addresses
Why don't you host sites that spam, even if they do not use your servers for spamming?
All ethical issues aside, our contracts with the communications companies that bring us connectivity to the Internet do not allow it. Hosting a spammer gives Webbworks a bad name in the Internet community. We also will do our part as an ISP to eliminate spam from the Internet.
What about sending unsolicited e-mail to our own customers?
This is fine. E-mail can be a very effective way to distribute information to customers. However, this is where many "grey areas" come up. How are they a customer? Do they know they are a customer? Are you trying to sell them something or mearly sending an announcement? Do they have a means of getting off your list if they request it?
We have many users on our site. What if a user decides to ignore this policy and spam anyway?
We are reasonable and we take this into consideration. We will ask you to inform the user of the policy and make sure it does not happen again. It they continue to send unsolicited messages your account will be in jeopardy. We strongly discourage customers giving users free web space, e-mail accounts or autoresponders. This is breeding ground for spammers.
Are you saying thought that there is a limit to what kind of legal business I can talk about on my web site?
Not at all! You can use your Web site for any legal purpose (adult sites excluded). You just cannot use unsolicted e-mail to advertise services or products.