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A blast from the past… an old anti-spam policy

Entertainment, Friends-Romans-Countrymen, Politics and Activism, Security, Technology

I was going over some ancient archives of my old web sites and found this gem.  I still believe this is how spam and spammers should be dealt with, and it’s a shame it never caught on.  This was originally published in late 1997 or early 1998.

Unsolicited Commercial E-mail Policy

Unsolicited commercial email (AKA “spam”) is email of a commercial nature that is not explicitly asked for by the recipient, and does not deal directly with the recipient’s business. Typically such mail offers the recipient items or services that the sender is selling.

At ErmineTech, we know how important responsible use of the internet can be to a flourishing business. We also know that as responsible citizens of the business community, nobody would deliberately abuse the services of another for their own gain. Consequently, ErmineTech Ltd. blocks all unsolicited commercial to users of the ErmineTech mail server unless the sender of such email has a contract in place with us. ErmineTech Ltd. offers a licence to use its user list for the price of $250,000 US (two hundred and fifty thousand United States dollars) plus applicable taxes, per year. We accept payment in cash, certified or cashier’s cheque, or as 81 troy pounds (972 troy ounces) of gold (London good delivery bars or better quality and assayed gold content).

For that fee, the contracted sender of unsolicited commercial email will be allowed to send “spam” to our users unimpeded by our mail filters for a period of one year. The licence applies to the one person or incorporated company whose name appears on the contract, and is not transferrable. The year starts as soon as the payment has cleared and is released to our bank account.

Now, some people argue that an email box is just like the mailbox attached to your house. “You can’t bill the bulk mailer for the junk mail you receive” they say. We’d like those bulk to remember that it’s not the recipients that are billing you in this case. It is the service provider billing you – just like the post office bills the bulk mailer for the service of delivering the mail to the recipient.

Should your company be interested in this arrangement, please contact us at If you are a sender of spam and are not contracted, please realize that your mail will be dumped by our mail server and unseen by our users. This would apply to all spam sent to addressees in and and their subdomains. In some cases, mail will be rejected with an “insufficient postage” message if a contract for delivery is not in place.

Where does my $250k go?

Some of you might think that $250k is a lot of money for our rather short user list. We thought it important that you know where the money goes:

  • $25,000 is donated to the Free Software Foundation
  • $115,000 is divided evenly among the individuals on the user list as compensation for the use of their name in selling our user list.
  • The remainder is kept by ErmineTech.

$250,000! That’s ridiculous! I won’t pay!

At first glance, it’s true, $250,000 does seem like a steep sum. Consider, however, the sheer abuse of resources caused by a typical unsolicited commercial mailing:

Let’s assume a mailing list of 5 million addresses. We’ll assume that 10% of the addresses are invalid/out of service/whatever. That’s 4.5 million emails that go out to 4.5 million people. The sender pays only a few dollars for sending them out… BUT…

… for 4.5 million people, they all pay about a penny to receive that message. I’ll be nice and say it’s even less – how about a fifth of a penny. Now, across that whole mailing $9000 of RECIPIENTS’ MONEY, not sender’s money, evaporates – gone forever, stolen by the sender of the unsolicited commercial e-mail.

Now, in a typical year, a user might receive, say, 1000 UCEs. That’s $9 MILLION of stolen recipients’ money taken from those 4.5 million people. $9,000,000 that the advertisers should have paid, but didn’t. And realise, I’m being very conservative here. Now, add 50 cents a message in lost time for the person who has to read and dispose of the UCE. That’s another $500 per person per year, or $2.25 BILLION sucked out of people’s lives.

Our goal, by charging $250,000 for a licence to send us advertising, is to put the cost of advertising back where it belongs – in the pockets of the advertiser. No longer should we have to carry other companies’ business for free. We believe this to be a fair and equitable arrangement. And, to enforce this policy, we use extensive mail filtering and blocking techniques which we are happy to share with the world. This means that if you don’t pay, we don’t carry your advertising. Certainly if you were to approach an advertising firm and ask for their services you could easily end up paying that much. Fair enough, yes?

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