Tragedy of the digital commons

The internet is a network of networks, decentralized and generally unregulated– a digital commons. Is the internet suffering a tragedy of the commons?
Wikipedia has a concise summary of the evolution of the spam problem on the net: Spam. First, Usenet fell to the assault of spam. Then, e-mail. Now, the web is under assault.
Matt Haughey noticed how spammers are abusing Google’s Blogspot service: When it rains, it pours:

It looks like one monster spam blogger has unleashed a boatload of new blogspot blogs, always in the form of keyword-(random number).blogspot.com (like lottery-123123.blogspot.com). They suck in RSS feeds from blogs like mine and boingboing and others, then insert random phrases into the copy, with a link to their own sites using phrases they want to game google with

Mark Cuban: The Shit hit the fan today: “The blogosphere was hit by a blogspot.com splogbomb. Someone did the inevitable and wrote a script that created blog after blog and post after post.”
Are all open digital communities subject to the spam dilemma? How do we bar unproductive uses of the digital commons without raising the barrier to entry and blocking other voices?
The internet revolutionizes communications, making it possible for anyone to reach a global audience. That has a downside.

Microsoft losing war on spam

Salon.com: How Microsoft is losing the war on spam: “Most junk e-mail today emanates from Windows computers that spammers have hijacked and turned into spam “zombies” using security holes in Microsoft’s operating system. What’s more, Microsoft is blamed for wrecking efforts this past summer to create e-mail authentication standards. The company also stands accused of trying to neuter state anti-spam laws. And Microsoft has yet to win a lawsuit against a major spammer.”

In Utah, Pop-up ads not spam

At Findlaw, Anity Ramastry discusses: Why A Utah Court Was Right to Hold That, Under Utah Law, Pop-up Ads Are Not “Spam”

Computer users are often bombarded with annoying pop-up advertisements. Separately, they also are often bombarded with annoying “spam”– unsolicited commercial email. Can the pop-up ads be thought of, legally, as a form of spam?
According to a January 6 ruling by the Utah Court of Appeals, under Utah law, the answer is no. As a result, consumers cannot use the state’s anti-spam statute as a basis for a suit against those responsible for pop-up ads. The decision is significant for, to my knowledge, it is the first of its kind.

Riddle v. Celebrity Cruises, 2004 UT App 487 (Dec. 30, 2004).

One BILLION dollars and other spam news

How big of a problem is spam? It may account for as much as 93 percent of all email volume. It certainly seems as if we get 93 spams for every legitimate email here at AndrewRaff.com World HQ. Fortunately, a federal court and a regulatory agency are in action, fighting the rising tide of spam.
The AP reports: Judge Awards $1 Billion in Spam Lawsuit: “A federal judge has awarded a Clinton [Iowa] Internet service provider over $1 billion in a lawsuit against companies that used the service provider’s equipment to send spam” District Judge Charles R. Wolle filed the default judgments against three companies under the Federal RICO Act and the Iowa Ongoing Criminal Conduct Act.
FTC issued final rules defining what consitutes the “primary purpose” of a commercial email message. Federal Register Notice. Press Release

Some of the criteria for determining whether a message is primarily a commercial message include:

  • For e-mail messages that contain only the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service (“commercial content”), the primary purpose of the message will be deemed to be commercial;
  • For e-mail messages that contain both commercial content and “transactional or relationship” content, the primary purpose of the message will be deemed to be commercial if either:
    1. a recipient reasonably interpreting the subject line of the e-mail would likely conclude that the message contains commercial content; or
    2. the e-mail’s “transactional or relationship” content does not appear in whole or substantial part at the beginning of the body of the message;
  • For e-mail messages that contain both commercial content and content that is neither “commercial” nor “transactional or relationship,” the primary purpose of the message will be deemed to be commercial if either:
    1. a recipient reasonably interpreting the subject line of the message would likely conclude that the message contains commercial content; or
    2. a recipient reasonably interpreting the body of the message would likely conclude that the primary purpose of the message is commercial.

    Factors relevant to this interpretation include the placement of commercial content in whole or in substantial part at the beginning of the body of the message; the proportion of the message dedicated to commercial content; and how color, graphics, type size, and style are used to highlight commercial content; and

  • For e-mail messages that contain only “transactional or relationship” content, the message will be deemed to have a “transactional or relationship” primary purpose

Cell phone spam

PC-Radio.com reports on the First Lawsuit Over Cell Phone Spam

Lawyers for Verizon Wireless claim the defendants’ messages violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), as well as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and New Jersey’s computer fraud statute. Under the TCPA, victims are entitled to a minimum of $500 per violation as a remedy.

Complaint