Reporting Little Blue Men

Howard Goldstein hgoldste at
Sat Jan 24 04:42:43 UTC 1998

Dean Anderson writes:
 > I might be wrong, but no one has yet given an explanation of how this law
 > doesn't apply. 

Fair point.  Here's how I analyze it for my own use [1]:

The bad act is the interception of a communication by persons not
parties thereto, and by those who are not necessary for the

"Interception" is defined in the wiretap act as the acquisition of the
communication's "contents" (a term of art, also defined).

In order for there to be a prohibited interception, one must have
acquired the substance of another's communications, i.e., the
"contents."  s2511(1)

Yet the kind of blocking most of us contemplate (blackhole route,
sendmail check_[mail|relay], and the like) when "blocking" is brought
up inhibits acquisition of the contents.  There is no violation if no
"contents" are acquired.

The wiretap act is intended to protect proprietary rights in message
content from another's wrongful taking.  There's no indication
anywhere of intent to gaurantee a level of service for content's

I find it somewhat reassuring that those desperate spammers who have
litigated related matters haven't attempted recovery through the civil
remedy provided by s2520.  Don't you agree that they would have tried
if the theory had even a tiny bit of merit?


[1] In other words, this is not legal advice, and I do not represent
anyone on this list -- no one here has paid me.  Consult your own
attorney before taking or refraining from taking any action regarding
the subject matter discussed herein.

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