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A new type of email is now on the Internet. This email has the same rights and priveledges as postal mail.
In a nutshell webmaster's that tamper with email with an Electronic Postmark, read it or prevent its delivery are open to prosecution. It IS a crime.
Here's the USPS site url. Read it and if you are filtering anyone else's mail except your own, you might want to call your legal counsel before continuing.
Here's the law cited on the USPS site.
I like to suggest that we limit discussion to the legal issues in this thread.
If anyone is interested they might start two new threads: 1 the benefits from the Electronic Postmark and 2 the downside of the EPM.
It seems clear to me that businesses will begin to use it to ensure that their emails are delivered to their opted-in customers. This will run afoul of homegrown filters and all the filter software I am aware of.
If a business wants to filter the email they are going to do so and people will be left checking their personal email at home.
This looks like another short-sighted attempt by an agency to regulate something that is technologically beyond them.
Some industries like the brokerage industry already is prevented by regulators like the SEC from filtering and destroying inbound email. They have collect 8.5 million dollars from brokerage firms that did not comply.
I think the burden of compliance will fall on companies like Earthlink and AOL.
(c) Exceptions. -
Subsection (a) of this section does not apply with respect to conduct authorized -
(1) by the person or entity providing a wire or electronic communications service;
(2) by a user of that service with respect to a communication of or intended for that user; or
(3) in section 2703, 2704 or 2518 of this title
In other words, if a person has asked you to filter their mail for them, then you're explicitly protected from any punishment under that law, whether the filtered messages have an electronic-postmark or not.
Filtering user mail without the consent of the user is a stupid thing to do to begin with. Note that for business mail, the employer is entitled to filter anything in most cases (with certain industry specific exceptions, eg. in the banking sector).
So I believe the Electronic Postmark exists. I am not a lawyer so I can tell you what I believe I read but I can't give you a legal opinion.
I am sure that you did not want to imply that my post is a scam.
To the extent that people sell ads in newletters that get sent by email and that others email advertisements, I think the topic is on the right forum.
All the forums at webmasterworld are targeted at webmasters so I think it is right to explore this topic from the webmasters point of view.
You might argue that the eCommerce forum is a better place, but the moderator moved another email related subject of mine to this forum.
In its purpose, this Electronic Postmark is absolutely equivalent to eg. a PGP signature. Just that it isn't supported by a grassroots "network of trust", but by a big-brother like central institution. All it does is giving the recipient a way to verify that the sender of the message really is who they claim to be, and that the content of the message wasn't modified during transmission. In other words, the term "postmark" is completely misleading, as it has nothing in common with traditional postage stamps.
It does not pose any other obligations on the recipient than is already the case with a standard e-mail. It does not garantee delivery. It does not offer proof of delivery (unless maybe if the recipient cross checks the signature with the USPS). And it certainly doesn't change the status of people who filter mail either for themselfes or for others.
Now I'd be all for it if services like MSN and AOL were to use smart mail filters instead of the terminally stupid ones they currently have in place. But if that ever happens, then it probably won't be the consequence of some sloppy USPS web page writeup.
Now how can it be illegal for me to touch something that is on my server that I pay for and that I control? I cannot see how it can be and I cannot see how USPS can enforce this.
If they want to offer such a service they should/will have to buy their own servers and bandwidth to host and move the mail. Or maybe they are going to offer all use EMail Postmasters part of the proffit to ensure we enforce what they want to sell?
Snail mail direct marketing has never gotten out of control because it costs money, and failure to target one's market is a quick road to bankruptcy.
But until this is hashed out in court, I'd send a paper copy, too!
However, it is still unclear just what protection the Electron Postmark confers on an email.
However, I believe this may be an attempt by the US government to cut down on the amount of paperwork filed with the courts. I know many court documents can now be filed electronically. I would assume that this is an extension of that.
It would make it easier for law firms and government agencies to file court documents and notify various parties that they have been named in legal actions. It also is a way to cut costs in the long run. (No one's mentioned what this Electronic Postmark application costs, but I'm assuming it ain't cheap.)
I'm guessing that, by extension, the purpose of this postmark is to make it harder for individuals to evade service of legal documents, such as divorce papers, traffic violations/tickets by mail, etc.
I would also guess it could work to our advantage in that we could use it, as someone else suggested, to say "Pay up, deadbeat, or else!"
As far as spam is concerned, this might make it easier in some ways to slow down how much spam you receive. If the courts require spammers to use the electronic postmark and only send "spam" to those folks who don't opt-out (kind of like they're doing with phone numbers), it could become a violation of federal law to spam certain folks.
But, of course, I'm just guessing here. I'm not a lawyer - only an ex-legal secretary, so my opinions and random thoughts on this topic don't count for much in terms of an educated legal opinion. ;)
This is laughable on its face.
Let say I am a spammaster. I just go to my PO, signup for postmarking, send out my 1 jillion spammails, then commence to legally whooping the a**es of folks who filter me?
All things being equal<sure they are> the real world law regarding direct mail would most likely need to apply. Bulk mail (1st 2nd and 3rd class bulk rate mail) is required to be delivered, regardless of the receiver.
E.G. I CANNOT tell the postmaster that I do not want bulk mail in my mailbox. Believe me, I've tried. I also cannot tell the letter carrier that comes to my home to toss bulk advertising into the trash can next to my mailbox.
This is going to be interesting.
In Direct Mail this is called the 'nixie' file. The DMA also has a suppression file I think, but I am not sure.
The new Telemarketing law also has pervisions for a 'nixie' file.
Tying this to the USPS Electonic postmark, they would have a vested interest in ALLOWING bulk spammers to use the service - at discounted rates of course. At last check, real world bulk mail accounted for nearly 80% of USPS revenue.
I am assuming however that this would be more usefull in assigning "evidence-ability" to email, such as sending a registered or certified letter. From a business point of view, If I thought an issue was important enough to buy USPS "protection", I'd probably go to a real world Post Office, rather than trust email with delicate matters.
This will be one to watch.
It's an electronic signature. Such a signature is essentially an encrypted hash of the message. In the case of PGP, it's encrypted with the private key of the sender, so that you can decrypt and check it with their public key. You can check the validity (and identity) of that public key by reference through other people that signed it (the "network of trust"). I assume that the keys to your USPS "postmarks" would be centrally maintained by them, but they're vague about the details.
In any case, a signature can be included in a header, or simply appended to the message. It can't be tampered with, because it depends both on the message content *and* an external reference source. Of course it can be "corrupted", which renders it invalid. A message with an invalid signature/postmark is equivalent to a message without any signature. As a consequence, signatures are only useful for the recipient in order to verify the sender and content of a message. It is not possible for the sender to base any special rights on having sent a signed message (unless intact delivery gets confirmed through other channels).
I CANNOT tell the postmaster that I do not want bulk mail in my mailbox.
He who pays for the transport decides where it is delivered. Since the sender pays all the transport costs of postal mail, the post office has to deliver all that is personally addressed. Since the recipient pays most of the transport costs of e-mail, the situation there is very different. Note that "electronic postmarks" don't pay for the transport, despite their misleading name. In fact, the USPS isn't involved in the transport of your e-mail at all, so they can't regulate it in any way either.