Spam, the Documentary

You can catch anti-spam professional (and Internet for Dummies author) John Levine on TV tomorrow. He writes:

Last year I helped some Canadian film makers do a TV show called "Spam, the Documentary". Now US viewers can see it on Court TV tomorrow Sept 18th at 11pm EDT or the 19th at 3am EDT. (Well, at least the insomniacs or the ones with TiVo can see it.)

It came out quite well; they start by interviewing Terry Jones about the original Monty Python spam skit, then you can see Dave buy a genuine fake Rolex, try a weight reduction wrap, and discuss the likely effects of enlargement products with an actual doctor (ewww). You also see quite a lot of me doing narration from a cybercafe in Toronto.

The CBC's web page at http://www.cbc.ca/thelens/program_171006.html has more info and a promo clip.


I got to see this when it first came out last year. Good stuff!

The Real Spam Has Stood Up

In "Will the Real Spam Please Stand Up?," Kevin Stirtz disagrees with the statement, "until a user has opted-in to your email list, you are sending spam."

All fine and good. Nothing wrong with a bit of disagreement. I'll prove it: I disagree!

Do any of the following apply to what you're doing?
  • You add people to an email list and start mailing them without their prior knowledge.
  • Recipients on your list aren't expecting your mail.
  • You bought an email list.
  • You found one or more email addresses on the web and added them to your list.
If any of those apply to what you're doing: You're a spammer, dummy.

Forget about Web Marketing 101, let's talk about Email Marketing 101, and how to get your email delivered.

Target it all you want, avoid including a sales pitch, whatever. But if you build a list of people who didn't ask to hear from you, and are not expecting to hear from you, you're not going to have the ability to successfully deliver to that list. It's that simple.

Forget what Kevin thinks. Forget what I think. What do ISPs think? Let me clue you in: ISPs hate spam, because their users hate spam. When you send unwanted and unexpected email, recipients report it as spam in overwhelming numbers. Those spam reports significantly damage your sending reputation. Hotmail, Yahoo, and AOL will filter or reject your mail as a result. You're likely to get blacklisted by Barracuda, Spamcop, Brightmail, and Spamhaus, as a result.

In spite of a cheekily-written blog post containing a clever redefinition of what constitutes spam, permission remains key to getting your email delivered. Sure, you can get away with bypassing permission -- for a little while. Until your sending reputation catches up to you. Just because it hasn't caught up with Kevin (yet), doesn't mean it makes for a sustainable marketing model or best practice.

It seems that I'm not the only one with this viewpoint, either.

Zombie Pfizer Computers Spew Viagra Spam

Look, it happens to everyone. Run a large network some time. Put a Windows box, or two, or a thousand, on it. Eventually somebody will find a way to bypass the Anti-Virus, and there'll be an infection.

I've had to call a big company here or there, having traced a spam source back to an infected desktop on their network. Usually their response is, "Ugh, we know! Thanks for the report, you're one of thousands who let us know. We're in the midst of a security audit to clean it all up."

Unless you're Pfizer. Then what do you do? If this article is to be believed, you stick your head in the sand and hope it all goes away. Hopefully this wake up call from Support Intelligence can get them to clean up their network.

How much of your spam came from an IP address on Pfizer's network? I smell a project for the weekend.

More on the Spamhaus Ruling

From noted anti-spam professional and "Internet for Dummies" author John Levine:

By my reading this is as close to a complete victory as Spamhaus could have hoped for. There was no chance the appeals court would throw out the default, since that would have been an invitation to every losing defendant in the midwest to tell their lawyers to withdraw so they could start the case over again. Beyond that, E360 now has no damages and no injunction, and a steep hill to climb to get either of them back.

[...]
As I read the decision, the only injunction that E360 is entitled to at this point is one forbidding Spamhaus from saying that E360 was spamming in September 2006. (Well, OK.) If they have been spamming since then, which I happen to know they have since they've sent quite a lot of it to users on my network, Spamhaus is free to re-list them, and any plausible injunction forbidding that would fail as prior restraint. (emphasis added)

Read John's full commentary here.

7th Circuit Court Opinion on e360 v Spamhaus

Hot off the press, courtesy of the excellent legal document site SpamSuite.com. Mickey Chandler breaks it down:
  • The default judgment stays (e360: 1, Spamhaus 0)
  • The money judgment is overturned (e360: 1, Spamhaus: 11,715,000)
  • The injunction is overturned (e360: 1, Spamhaus: 11,715,001)

Important bits:
Page 12: "We perceive no error in the district court’s conclusion that Spamhaus intentionally elected to abandon its available defenses when it withdrew those defenses from consideration by the court and indicated that it was prepared to accept a default. Spamhaus’ then-counsel confirmed that it wished to “participate in the defense no further” and “do absolutely nothing.” See R.56-1 at 3, 5. It was not erroneous to treat this kind of voluntary abandonment of defenses, raised but not pursued, as a waiver."

Pgs 18-19: "Mr. Linhardt’s affidavit is a conclusory statement of the lost value of his business, based largely on his calculations of lost future profits. It provides a list of businesses involved in “actual and pending contracts” and a total calculation of his calculation of loss, but says nothing about the status of his relationship with those businesses before e360 was listed on the ROKSO. That is, the affidavit claims profit loss in absolute numbers, but provides no information whatsoever to support a finding that such future profits were certain prior to Spamhaus’ act. Particularly given the difficulties that Illinois courts have acknowledged in proving non-speculative amounts of lost future profits, [citations omitted], this affidavit alone cannot provide the requisite “reasonable certainty” for a damages award without the necessity of a hearing. We therefore vacate the damages award and remand to the district court for a more extensive inquiry into the damages to which e360 is entitled."

Pg. 24: "According to the complaint, however, Spamhaus lists entities on the ROKSO for violating ISP terms of use, not “United States law.” The complaint does not allege that Spamhaus defamed e360 by claiming that e360 operated in violation of law. The facts supporting the default judgment, therefore, show only that e360 improperly was listed as a “spammer” by Spamhaus, applying Spamhaus’ own criteria. There is no basis in the judgment for an injunction that modifies Spamhaus’ generally applicable criteria for determining what entities qualify as spammers."

Now things will go back to the district court for redetermination of damages to be paid under the default.

Click on through to the SpamSuite.com page on this topic for more info and excellent analysis from Mr. Chandler.

SPEWS Memorial Day?

I see a very strange thing today (August 30th). APEWS, an "anonymous" anti-spam blacklist (whose listing policies are very broad and of questionable accuracy) has taken down their home page. When you go to www.apews.org, what you find today is a memorial message.

The message pays tribute to the administrator supposedly behind the previous SPEWS blacklist. It's true that SPEWS website and blacklist data stopped being updated approximately a year ago. However, here's no indication beyond this message that somebody actually passed away, or that a single person that somebody knew was actually previously maintaining the SPEWS data.

Here's a copy of the message found on the APEWS website, in case it's changed back by the time you look for yourself:

Today our website and our mailservers are not available, because it is 30. August - SPEWS MEMORY DAY

Our beloved SPEWS operator got hit by a truck and died 30. August 2006. One of his dreams was to make the world a spam free place. As long as spam exists we therefore recommend all of you to shutdown all mailservers at every 30. August for 24 hours.

Be creative to make today a black day for all spammers and spam supporters and a day without mail and spam.

It is just one day in the year so it will not hurt you nor your company, but it will set a wideley visible sign if enough people do so.

Our blacklists are online, but we will not display reasons for listings nor do any removals by today. We will be back by tomorrow. APEWS - Anonymous Postmasters Early Warning System.