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Lessig Wagers His Job On Anti-Spam Theory

timothy posted more than 11 years ago | from the sounds-like-a-safe-bet dept.

Spam 409

kien writes "Lawrence Lessig is betting his position at Stanford on his anti-spam legislative recommendations. From his blog:'First the analysis: Philip Jacob has a great piece about spam and RBLs. The essay not only identifies the many problems with RBLs, but it nicely maps a mix of strategies that could be considered in their place. But, alas, missing from the list is one I've pushed: A law requiring simple labeling, and a bounty for anyone who tracks down spammers violating the law. Here goes: So (a) if a law like the one I propose is passed on a national level, and (b) it does not substantially reduce the level of spam, then (c) I will resign my job. I get to decide whether (a) is true; Declan can decide whether (b) is true. If (a) and (b) are both true, then I'll do (c) at the end of the following academic year.' The Declan referred to in point (b) is Declan McCullagh." Update: 01/07 02:45 GMT by T : Speaking of whom, here is Declan's acceptance of Larry's bet.

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first post (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029744)

first post and btw.. I Hate Spam!

eff pee? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029746)

hehe :)

Re:eff pee? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029772)

Ah yes... how lovely to see that my smiley was marked down as flamebait.

YOU FAIL IT! (-1)

YOU FAIL IT! (624257) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029961)

Failure? You may find this [ewav.com] website helpful.

YOU FAIL IT!

First Spam! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029748)

First Spam!

First problem with this solution: (5, Interesting)

swordboy (472941) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029749)

Lawrence Lessig is betting his position at Stanford on his anti-spam legislative recommendations.

Umm...

You *don't* need LEGISLATION to fix this problem (isn't that what technology is for?). Fix the technology (or lack thereof), and you've fixed the problem. There are several very good ideas floating around out there that don't require an office of homeland spam in the whitehouse.

Stupid lawyers...

Re:First problem with this solution: (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029759)

Name one technological measure which has a zero false-positive rate, a low false-negative rate, and a snowball's chance in hell of being adopted. The problem should address spam at the server side, since it's already wasting space by the time it's allowed onto a client machine.

Re:First problem with this solution: (5, Interesting)

sfe_software (220870) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029947)

Name one technological measure which has a zero false-positive rate

Bayessian Classification

a low false-negative rate

Bayessian Classification

and a snowball's chance in hell of being adopted.

Mozilla has (very preliminary) Bayessian classification. So far, that part works great - not a single false-positive in weeks of use (I've been using it since 1.3a was released), and once they add the ability to auto-mark-as-read and move/delete SPAM, I'm all set.

The problem should address spam at the server side, since it's already wasting space by the time it's allowed onto a client machine.

I'm not sure if you are referring to the origin server, or the receiving server (in which case it has already wasted space/bandwidth), but the receiving server could easily implement Bayessian filtering as well. It would take some work on the part of the clients to make it work (or perhaps simply forward junk mail to a local address that classifies it as SPAM?)...

I personally am okay with doing this in the client, as long as the Mozilla team continues to improve this feature. Currently I'm still interrupted and must mark the messages as "read", but eventually I won't have to ever see SPAM.

I'm normally not all that fanatic about software or software-ideas, but Bayessian filtering just plain works. If some implementation were to add common word-groups instead of just word occurrances, it might even be more rock-solid, but even as it stands in Mozilla's implementation, it has serious promise.

Implemented as a Perl script on the server-side, one could easily eliminate the problem all together for each user (since everyone has a different idea of what constitutes SPAM).

A classic example of this: Yahoo mail uses a more global approach to SPAM classification (BrightMail I believe). Unfortunately the RedHat Eratta mails fall into the Junk folder, since apparently many Yahoo users consider it SPAM. Similarly, I still get "notification@mailsweeps.com" SPAM in my inbox, no matter how many times I report it as SPAM.

This is where Bayessian filtering, which works on individual users, solves the problem.

Anyway, if it isn't obvious, I'm all for using technology to solve the problem, especially now that a very promising technology is currently available. Legislation won't help, unless it's globally enforced, and even then it still won't help much. Bayessian lets the user define what he or she considers SPAM, which will vary from user to user, making it the most logical approach IMO.

Re:First problem with this solution: (5, Insightful)

Mr Bill (21249) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030031)

If a SPAM doesn't appear in my inbox, was it ever sent?

By the time the SPAM gets filtered by your mail reader it has already done lots of damage. SPAM costs ISPs money in time, bandwidth, and storage space. Where do you think that extra cost is heading. Right back to the end user.

There are many solutions out there that can limit the amount of SPAM that appears in your inbox (like bayessian filters), but that isn't enough to stop the SPAM problem. It just puts a band-aid over it...

Re:First problem with this solution: (5, Insightful)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030084)

It is a band-aid if few people use it.
However, if enough people (and ISPs) use it, then the effectiveness of spam will be reduced, possibly to the point that many of the spammers give up. It's too soon to dismiss a possible solution.

Re:First problem with this solution: (2, Interesting)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030054)

Mozilla has (very preliminary) Bayessian classification.

Just as an aside it's "Bayesian". I'm not launching into pedantry but noticed that when I tried doing a search on it (good old Google and its suggestions).

In any case, the success of Bayesian Filtering is because it is rare: Do you think that spammers couldn't dedicate some time and create a "norm" email if these filters were widespread? The only reason that they haven't is because users utilizing it as an anti-spam technique are rare, though if it took off it would be rendered impotent quite quickly. In other words if you like it so much, don't go around advertising it.

Re:First problem with this solution: (1)

Link310 (453668) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030085)

The key with a Bayesian filter is that it learns. Whatever the spammers do, the filter should be able to learn to deal with. Spam looks different from your normal mail (at least I hope your non-spam email doesn't look like spam), uses different words, has different characteristics. So long as this is true, they can't get past a bayesian filter for long if at all.

Re:First problem with this solution: (4, Interesting)

Sheetrock (152993) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029995)

A decent idea I've seen along these lines (barring your third criterion -- but I remind you we're still waiting for things as important as IPv6 to be deployed) has to do with requiring the sender of an e-mail to generate a computationally-expensive hash collision, dubbed 'hashcash', of the message that is computationally-inexpensive to verify by the systems forwarding the message to its destination. In a nutshell, a computer sending e-mail can be required to spend an arbitrary amount of time to generate this data, as the alternative would be to have the mail discarded by any mail server/relay implementing a check for the data.

There are more details here [cypherspace.org] . Obviously, there's more to creating a workable system than this, because such an atmosphere would make it impossible to run a large-distribution mailing list, but it should be possible to get around such problems with a little ingeniuity, such as allowing the recipient of such mail to exempt certain IP addresses at the mail server from having to generate hashcash. My favorite part of this scheme is that, implemented properly, it could stop spam before it leaves the originating ISP.

Re:First problem with this solution: (5, Insightful)

Mike the Mac Geek (182790) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029762)

Yes, but the laws give it teeth. Software can cut spam, but more will come, in a never ending cycle. If we make it financially hurt people to send out pure spam, then we don't need to have software that could possible filter out vald mail at a prohibitive cost.

First problem with your suggestion: (4, Insightful)

achurch (201270) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029809)

Fix the technology (or lack thereof), and you've fixed the problem.

Right up until someone comes up with new technology to get around your technology.

Re:First problem with this solution: (3, Insightful)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029810)

Show me one technological solution that will stop spam, that doesn't involve a constant cat-and-mouse game.

Re:First problem with this solution: (1)

mlk (18543) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029910)

A white list.

OK, not great, but works.

On one overly spammed account, 23 people are on the white list, I get no spam.

Re:First problem with this solution: (3, Insightful)

arb (452787) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029944)

On one overly spammed account, 23 people are on the white list, I get no spam.

And how do you expect to receive a surprise email from a college buddy you lost touch with 10 years ago? White lists only work if you have a clearly defined set of people who you wish to receive email from - they do not allow the possibility that someone will legitimately send you an email without you having added that person's email address to your list.

Re:First problem with this solution: (2)

asa (33102) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029984)

While it's not completely free of the "cat-and-mouse game", Mozilla's Junk Mail Controls [mozilla.org] are cutting my spam down by about 90% and it only requires a single mouse click for each of the few spam messages that gets through to keep the filter trained at that level.

--Asa

NATIONAL law will stop third-world spammers? (5, Insightful)

BigBlockMopar (191202) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029837)


You *don't* need LEGISLATION to fix this problem (isn't that what technology is for?).

Especially since the legislation will do nothing.

Here goes: So (a) if a law like the one I propose is passed on a national level, and (b) it does not substantially reduce the level of spam, then (c) I will resign my job.

The problem is it's being addressed on a national level. That won't stop the African scam artists "whose money is tied up" - hopefully their oppressors will beat them in the face with a rusty camshaft - or the Chinese wishes of good fortune and prosperity that I was continually getting from some shitty company selling latex products until I finally decided to blackhole China from my mailserver.

This might keep the Florida 21-year-old unwed mother of 6 children from spamming me from her dial-up ISP of the week. But the funny thing about national laws is that they don't apply outside the nation...

Re:NATIONAL law will stop third-world spammers? (2, Informative)

kien (571074) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030005)

The problem is it's being addressed on a national level.

That's a valid point. It leads to what I personally call a "slashdot paradox". I'm outraged that a Russian programmer (and then, the company that employed him) was prosecuted here in the US for software that is legal in Russia. Yet if Prof. Lessig's law is passed in the US...paradox. It could be argued that laws passed in the US have typically been adopted in one form or another around the world (which sucks...ref: DMCA) but that could be countered by the jurisdictional nightmare that the RIAA/MPAA have run into while trying to prosecute Kazaa.

The blessing and (for right now at least) the curse of the Internet is that it globalizes the public commons. We're only now beginning to confront all of the issues that are raised by this fact.

--K.

Re:First problem with this solution: (5, Interesting)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029860)

"There are several very good ideas floating around out there that don't require an office of homeland spam in the whitehouse."

What amazing reflexes you have in your knee-jerk reactions. You could have a future in television news. Just because there is a federal law passed on something doesn't mean there will have to be federal enforcement of that law.

Consider federal anti-junk-fax laws. If you get an unsolicited advertisement on your fax machine, the sender owes you $500, collectable through your local small claims court/justice of the peace/etc (if need be). Essentially, all this law does is explicitly spell out the rights of the owner of the receiving equipment and make it easier for the recipient to claim damages without having to carefully explain how junk faxing is essentially trespassing each and every time.

The FCC doesn't enforce this law. The FBI doesn't enforce this law. You enforce this law.

I personally think the idea of expanding the existing junk fax law to include spam [iwancio2002.org] would be easier to enact (add three or four words to existing law) and easier to enforce (track down spammers for a guranteed $500 instead of just a chance at $10,000), but I'm obviously biased.

Now calm down before you shatter your kneecap.

Re:First problem with this solution: (5, Insightful)

swordboy (472941) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029915)

Consider federal anti-junk-fax laws. If you get an unsolicited advertisement on your fax machine, the sender owes you $500.

If long distance faxing did not cost anything to the sender, then we'd all be getting spam via fax from China. US laws mean nothing to spammers.

Hell, there is nary a US provider that will carry a major spammer. How is a law going to fix that?

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029986)

This pretty much simply sums up the reason why legislation can't be the answer. End of story.

Fcc does enforce the law (2)

DiveX (322721) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030014)

Take a look at their web site http://www.fcc.gov/eb/tcd/ufax.html

If they get enough properly formatted complaints, they will issue citations. While generally it is a 'cease and desist', they still will follow through if it continues.

The TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991) will never be used to cover spam, not should it. If it were to be changed, then it would be challeneged by every major Ralwasky wannabe, thus possibly rendering the whole thing dead for the duration. Telemarketers would love to for this to happen. An often used defense (yet still struck down every time) is the suggestion that it (TCPA) violates the First Admendment. It is struck down because the Supreme Court has repeatedly said that commercial speech is not protected speech. The TCPA has teeth because of the FCCs constant review (they just ended comment period concerning the effectiveness thus far and recommendations for changes).

The TCPA will never be adjusted to include e-mail. Any attempt to do so will be very destructive. I used to think it would be a good way to do it as well until I researched the whole law and went through a couple of my own court cases.

Re:Fcc does enforce the law (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030041)

I fail to see what any of this has to do with free speech. As I said, the First Amendment lets you say what you want, but it doesn't give you the right to use somebody else's soapbox.

I have another solution (3, Funny)

sam_handelman (519767) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029882)

If (a) Every man on earth has a penis pump in his home, and (b) Africa sees an end to corrupt Juntas that need to hide money in overseas bank accounts then (c) I will stop sending spam.

I'm about as likely to stop spamming as Lawrence is to lose his job.

Re:First problem with this solution: (2)

JoeBuck (7947) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029904)

Fine then: what is your technical solution? Consider that a technical solution that doesn't permit someone like Larry Lessig to post his address publicly, so that interested people can write to him, without having to cope with 1k spams/day isn't a solution. So forget about proposing whitelisting solutions. Also, forget about proposing ISP-blocking; if the FCC has its way soon we'll only have two ISPs per city, max, and the RBL folks will lose their coercive power (since if you subscribe to an RBL you won't get any mail, everyone will be blocked).

The best thing I've tried is bogofilter [sourceforge.net] , but even that just deletes spam after it gets here. It doesn't cope with the exponential increase in mail volume, and the spammers are working very hard to defeat bogofilter and the like. For example, did you notice a sudden increase in spam that base64-encoded ordinary ASCII HTML? Guess why? To try to evade spam filters.

Re:First problem with this solution: (2)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029943)

Consider that a technical solution that doesn't permit someone like Larry Lessig to post his address publicly, so that interested people can write to him, without having to cope with 1k spams/day isn't a solution.

I don't think there's much choice he has in the matter.

1 minute of looking revealed:

1) llessig@stanford.edu
2) lessig@pobox.com

Re:First problem with this solution: (2)

PMuse (320639) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030068)

You *don't* need LEGISLATION to fix this problem (isn't that what technology is for?). Fix the technology (or lack thereof), and you've fixed the problem. ... Stupid lawyers...

In the copyright context, we say "you can't enforce copy-protection with technology because someone will always break it given enough time". Do you think Spammers are any less motivated to circumvent technological measures?

In copyright, we say that a better solution lies in a new balance of rights between producers and consumers, on a business model everyone can live with. Why is it so "stupid" to use legislation to stop an undesirable commercial behavior? Spammers are motivated by money. So punish them monetarily.

haha, seeya (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029750)

Nice knowing you, Larry.

YES! (4, Interesting)

Evil Adrian (253301) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029751)

Well I'll be damned, someone with prestige putting his money where his mouth is! Now, all we need to do is hope for legislation. Anyone know of any "annoy-your-representative-with-a-form-letter" sites that deal with spam legislation??

Re: YES! (5, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029824)


> Well I'll be damned, someone with prestige putting his money where his mouth is!

The cynic in me wants to say, "like he wouldn't have a dozen new first-rate job offers within a week".

A is A (0, Flamebait)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029754)

If we start with the not too far-fetched assumption that situation (a) will NEVER be a reality, Lessig can be seen for what he is - a huge scam artist vying for a circuit court appointment.

Here's one Slashdotter who would be happy to see this fraud fade slowly into the good night.

Re:A is A (1)

Chump1422 (196125) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029771)

As one of the world's most prominent legal scholars, I'd say Lessig's got that appellate circuit appointment sewn up if he wants it -- provided there's a Dem in the white house.

The judiciary is conservative and snobby. Lessig is only doing himself a disservice with stunts like this if he really wants a judgeship.

Re:A is A (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029858)

I'd say his chances of getting an appointment are about as good as David Boies getting one.

Both are outrageously flamboyant with little substance holding them up.

Lessig has quite a few theories, but only a handful of zealots (read Slashbots) pay any attention to him beyond a cursory "Oh yeah, that's a nice idea".

Contrast Lessig with Posner and see who is more mainstream and more listened to.

Re:A is A (2, Informative)

odin53 (207172) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029917)

Lessig is a conservative himself. He clerked for Richard Posner, a famous strongly conservative judge for the 5th Circuit, and Justice Scalia on the SCOTUS.

Re:A is A (2, Interesting)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029970)

Lessig's got that appellate circuit appointment sewn up if he wants it -- provided there's a Dem in the white house.

Why do you think of Lessig as favored by democrats? Do you believe that only democrats stick up for the rights of people? Which side of the aisle is the senator that promotes the Mickey Mouse Copyright Act from again?

Conservatism would lead us back to the copyright laws that had limitations for the public good - not for the good of those who make the largest campaign donations.

Re:A is A (5, Funny)

arkanes (521690) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030043)

Conservatism would do no such thing. Intelligent, moral politicians will do that. There's pretty much a derth of them on either side - although I would speculate that young, idealistic people who's goals are things like reclaiming the commons for the people would tend to be democrats rather than republicans.

Re:A is A (2, Informative)

kien (571074) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029954)

Here's one Slashdotter who would be happy to see this fraud fade slowly into the good night.

Well, you're entitled to that opinion. But have you read Professor Lessig's book The Future of Ideas [amazon.com] where he academically supports his argument.

It's easy to have an opinion and forecast the future (as you have done). It's much more difficult to have an educated opinion and forecast the future with references (as Lessig has done).

Here's one slashdotter that smells a troll. :)

--K.

Re:A is A (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029974)

The problem with Lessig is that he sees these gaps in law regarding electronic media as huge holes that permit all manner of "rights".

What he seems to fail to grasp (which is obvious if you read his half-assed writeup of it in The Future of Ideas (I wish I had my copy handy to provide some quotes, but alas)) is that electronic media is no different than physical media except in that it is much easier to copy things electronically. From this small difference he discovers the right to copy, distribute, and otherwise ignore all current copyright laws.

He is wrong. He is wrong in the same way that Stallman is wrong. It isn't a logical problem that they have. It is simply that they start with incorrect assumptions and take the conclusions based upon them too far.

He won't need his job! (5, Funny)

RumGunner (457733) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029769)

Not after making thousands of dollars from his OWN HOME on the INTERNET!!!

.

Re:He won't need his job! (2)

lpret (570480) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029863)

or the pr0n he'll make with his enlarged manhood

Say what you want about Larry (4, Insightful)

PotatoHead (12771) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029773)

he is doing a fine job trying like hell to do what he believes is true.

This act from the same person who asks: "Why do they not fight?"

I may not agree with him on all positions, but do agree completely with his zeal to persue them.

Why not indeed.

We all need a little more backbone...

how about if we cost them money? (4, Interesting)

LennyDotCom (26658) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029776)

If you goto overture.com and search on bulk email each link you click will cost the people that sell spam software and spam services several dolars each. LETS /. THIER BANK ACCOUNT!!

Re:how about if we cost them money? (3, Funny)

unicron (20286) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029922)

Yeah, thanks Joey, we'll get right on that.

... and d) ... (1)

lems1 (163074) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029777)

d) that was a very stupid syllogism

Yeah, right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029780)

We all know that Lessig will pull an Alec Baldwin [unitedjustice.com] if his bluff is called. Big yawn.

Not all spamming is bad... (-1, Troll)

$$$$$exyGal (638164) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029786)

+-----------+
| | If you stop spam, then
|$$$$$exyGal| noone will be able to
| | send ad's to you. And
|$$$$$exyGal| then where would you get
| | yer porn?
+-----------+

Stop all spam! Unless you wanna see me naked:

http://slashdot.org/~$$$$$exyGal/journal

I guess you'll still be able to get your
porn off /. ;-)

Re:Not all spamming is bad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029881)

most porn hounds get it via the newsgroups... lame email announcements are worthless.

so anyway how about a pic, naked or not.

prove me wrong but i'm sure your some wanna be chick with a dic type 8P

Re:Not all spamming is bad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029889)

If you stop spam, then
noone will be able to
send ad's to you. And

Not all that bright are you?

Please resign now (1, Interesting)

argoff (142580) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029794)

Phew, I might get moded out of exsistence on this, but IMHO he should resign now. His views on copyright monopolies are simply wrong. He reminds me of the people who thought that the free states could peacefully get along with the slave states, but in the information age. He simply refuses to understand that we are quickly entering into an age where either all information will be controlled or all information will be free. Information is so easy to copy, modify, and manipulate - there can be no middle ground.

There is an old saying, give me my tea hot or iced, but if it is lukewarm I will spit it out of my mouth. His position that intellectual property still has a place in the information age while decrying all it's problems is just that.

MOD ALERT, PARENT IS +1 INSIGHTFUL! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029807)

'nuff said.

Re:MOD ALERT, PARENT IS +1 INSIGHTFUL! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029871)

no it is not, nor should it be. no middle ground, what a short sighted prick.

Re:Please resign now (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029940)

I might get moded out of exsistence on this

Ahh, the battle cry of the North American karma whore.

Re:Please resign now (1)

argoff (142580) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029975)

he he,
I can't win. If I put it there they think I'm a karma whore, if not they think I'm a troll. cant you just let me hate the guy in peace :)

Re:Please resign now (2)

smallpaul (65919) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029990)

He should resign because he disagrees with you? So much for academic freedom!

Re:Please resign now (1)

argoff (142580) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030028)

He should resign because he's in the way, that is an opinion too you know. He claims to be on our side, but all this time people are discussing it - copyrights and all their consequences are being beaten down our throats all the harder. It is simply time force it so society can get on with the information age.

Re:Please resign now (2)

darkov (261309) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030027)

He simply refuses to understand that we are quickly entering into an age where either all information will be controlled or all information will be free.

Right. So all your medical record will be free. And how many times you had a wank last week will be freely posted on Slashdot and be modded up or down. And any military or security information will be available for download. For Christ's sake, get a clue.

His position that intellectual property still has a place in the information age while decrying all it's problems is just that.

IP has a more prominent place in the information age, not less. Without it there would be no information age. It's central to running an economy. Having cheap knock-offs of your designs or technology made by China or whoever is fine for consumers, but who put up the money to create the technology in the first place? Even something like Linux is merly a knockoff of technology created by large corporations who rely on IP to make a profit. And no, the next big breakthrough will most likely not be created by some lone geek in his bedroom, but by groups of researchers being paid for what they do.

You shouldn't have been modded up, but your average moderator looks at the psudeo-revolutionary drivel running out of your gob and thinks that it means something. Sheesh.

Re:Please resign now (3, Insightful)

argoff (142580) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030087)

Right. So all your medical record will be free. And how many times you had a wank last week will be freely posted on Slashdot and be modded up or down. And any military or security information will be available for download. For Christ's sake, get a clue.

yes they will be once they're out there - it's something that can't even be helped now. your argument is a good one for using digital certificates rather than imposed centralized record keeping, but not a good one for copyrights. sorry.



IP has a more prominent place in the information age, not less. Without it there would be no information age. It's central to running an economy. Having cheap knock-offs of your designs or technology made by China or whoever is fine for consumers, but who put up the money to create the technology in the first place?

if I loose a million in IP rights but gain a trillion worth if IP from everywhere else in the world then that is not a net loss. ps necessity is the mother of all inovations not IP.



Even something like Linux is merly a knockoff of technology created by large corporations who rely on IP to make a profit.

you mean like how MS innovates by using all the FreeBSD code?



And no, the next big breakthrough will most likely not be created by some lone geek in his bedroom, but by groups of researchers being paid for what they do.

Uhh 90% of the utilities in your kitchen or anywhere else were not invented by a big corporation. not even 1% of the new innovation in music.


Re:Please resign now (2, Informative)

kien (571074) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030088)

He simply refuses to understand that we are quickly entering into an age where either all information will be controlled or all information will be free. Information is so easy to copy, modify, and manipulate - there can be no middle ground.

Actually, after reading his book [amazon.com] I'm more inclined to think that he understands the issues at stake on a different level.

--K.

something missed (3, Informative)

neildogg (119502) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029798)

They missed the link to his idea [cioinsight.com]

Since sentiment, but... (5, Funny)

Chester K (145560) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029800)

While I appreciate Lessig's intentions here, it usually takes a bit more than a wager to get Congress to pass a law. Perhaps if he backed it up with some cash, Capitol Hill might pay attention.

Re:Since sentiment, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029856)

heh. funny, but sad. so very sad. because it's true. oh well, at least this isn't soviet russia.

Re:Since sentiment, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5030036)

must...resist...
In Soviet Russia, the law violates YOU!

On a *national* level? (2)

kfg (145172) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029817)

Larry, I like you and all, but what on earth has email over the *internet* got to do with the national level?

KFG

Re:On a *national* level? (3, Insightful)

brain159 (113897) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029969)

I'll answer that in one word:

Ralsky.

He's no fool... international? (5, Insightful)

angst_ridden_hipster (23104) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029819)

Because he knows that the legislation won't pass.

But if it *did*, he'd be majorly screwed, since a large percentage of the spam I receive, for example, comes from regions outside of the jurisdiction of U.S. National Legislation.

The spammers who are U.S.-based would merely move offshore. (Just think of the headlines -- evil legislation driving away lucrative American internet jobs ... joke, joke).

Re:He's no fool... international? (5, Insightful)

JoeBuck (7947) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029916)

Even today, a large fraction spam that appears to come from China, that arrives in Americans' email boxes, really comes from the US. It's US spammers bouncing it off of open relays in China.

Under Lessig's bill these US spammers can still be prosecuted.

Agreed. (2)

billstewart (78916) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029963)

I doubt the legislation would pass, and particularly that it would pass in the clean, simple form he recommends without getting lots of gunk added to it. Even if it does, it won't be too effective unless the _bounty_ is available not only to Americans, but to _anybody_, anywhere in the world, who succeeds in tracking down the spammer, which I consider to be unlikely.

Some of the non-US spam you get is really sent by non-Americans, but lots of it is sent by Americans abusing non-US machines (either by abusing open relays, or by buying cheap services.) US law can't touch the non-Americans effectively, but it can touch Americans using non-US ISPs. The entertaining thing that would happen if the bill were to pass and non-Americans could collect would be an instant market in Korea and China for mail servers that simultaneously forward mail, track down the sender, and log the recipients so that they can document it for the US authorities. Pretty soon, everybody in Korea with a broadband connection (which appears to be just about everybody) will start getting email ads for servers like this, because for a little while, it'll actually be possible to M4K3 M0n3Y F4$$7 on the Net by tracking American spammers. And $10K per successful event, minus US lawyer commissions, is pretty nice for something that doesn't take too much work.

Re:He's no fool... international? (5, Interesting)

smallpaul (65919) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030011)

The spammers who are U.S.-based would merely move offshore.

It isn't the person pulling the trigger on the spam that matters. It is the business sponsoring it. For most of these marginally profitable businesses, (penis extenders?) it would be easier to do something else rather than move offshore. Plus, the money has to get from US consumers to the people offshore. There may be legislative ways to make this difficult.

Why I'd take the bet (2, Interesting)

stand (126023) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029822)

What I don't understand about Lessig's proposal is how would he enforce the bounty part of the law against off-shore spammers. Suppose I get an unlabelled spam from someone and I manage to track down the spammer as originating in Mauritania. How do I get my $10,000 from this guy. Is the US going to invade Mauritania to get it?

Re:Why I'd take the bet (1)

lazylion (101229) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029861)

Since we already have idiotic drug seizure laws in the USA, why not apply the same principal? If you catch someone spamming, you get to take a certain percentage of their assets for yourself! That'd stop those damn spammers! Send Spam; Go broke! A bit harsh, but it works for me. I don't want to waste any more time or taxpayer's money on these slime.

Re:Why I'd take the bet (1)

gcalvin (325380) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030034)

From Lessig's article, where he proposes his legislation...
If there's a way to buy something from the spammer, there's a way to charge the spammer if you catch him.

Amen to that. Doesn't matter where the spam originates -- if there's a way for the spammer to take my money in the USA, then there's a way for me to take his money in the USA too.

put in a more /. friendly form (1)

edrugtrader (442064) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029825)

a = law passed
b = law fails
c = i quit

(a ^ b) => c

Re:put in a more /. friendly form (2)

MavEtJu (241979) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029933)

More !a || b => c.

Re:put in a more /. friendly form (1)

kurokaze (221063) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029981)

no no

a && !b = c

Re:put in a more /. friendly form (2)

sfe_software (220870) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030029)

a = law passed
b = law fails
c = i quit

(a ^ b) => c


Hm, more realistically would be:

a = law_passed;
b = law_fails;
c = iQuit();

if(a && b) c();

don't worry, he won't resign (2)

I Want GNU! (556631) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029836)

Because the politicians in DC would never pass a bill that would so blatently please American consumers. The average American doesn't have much money for campaign donations.

And hm, I wish we saw Lawrence Lessig post on Slashdot more, like the way Bruce Perens does. That would be cool.

Re:don't worry, he won't resign (2)

danheskett (178529) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030020)

Or more likely...

It's only bits on a wire. That's all. Nothing more. Little bits.

No one cares. It's a minor annoyance to most (>90% of people), and that's it.

You got piss off a lot of people to get a law passed. Spam doesn't have wide spread appeal.

A Fairly Safe Bet... (3, Insightful)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029844)

I'd say that's a safe bet since Congress has shown no inclination to legislate anything about spam. Even if they did, they would undoubtedly go for some half assed bill with no teeth which would not qualify as anything he suggested. And even if they did, the next day every spammer on the planet would relocate to china.

A cute gesture, true, but ultimately pointless.

Rubbish (4, Insightful)

CaptainSuperBoy (17170) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029862)

Those are the same tired old complaints against blacklists, but now it looks like a 'visionary' has blessed them so everyone's going to ooh and aah all over again - "Now I get it, blacklists are bad!" Except they're not, and all the arguments he presents against them have been refuted in the past.

The point is, receiving mail is voluntary and blacklists are voluntary. If I'm an ISP, I damn well have a right to block all e-mail from China and Argentina and it has nothing to do with "geopolitics and democracy." Gimme a break! He's saying that developed countries are actually preventing more troubled countries from entering the democratic utopia that's supposed to be the Internet. Because 99% of the e-mail coming from those countries happens to be spam. The way he puts it, RBLs might as well be responsible for all the poverty and oppression in the world - how can we blame people, after all we took away their God-given right to send e-mail!

Listen to him complain about collateral damage - collateral damage is the point of blackhole lists! Damaging a rogue ISP's users is the solution, not the problem. If we didnt' punish these ignorant subscribers they would continue supporting spammers. Every subscriber to a spam-friendly ISP is voting with their dollars - for spam. Rogue ISPs have proven that they will not act against spammers until they are financially threatened, and the only way to do that is to damage their user base to the point that they start losing subscribers. Collateral damage IS the point of blacklists - otherwise they're useless.

He also exhibits a fundamental misunderstanding of blackhole lists, lumping them in with open relay lists. SPEWS doesn't list open relays, and this entire rant is tainted by the fact that he seems to think all blackhole lists do is block open relays. Relays are just one small source of spam. Spam-friendly ISPs are a greater threat to the well-being of e-mail, by far.

Answer me this Mr. Jacob, where will our utopian "geopolitics" be when the entire e-mail system is destroyed by spam? Hey, at least we didn't silence any of the poor starving people in third-world countries who were just dying to send their democratic message of hope and peace. Oh, what was that inspirational message from that wide-eyed Argentinian eager to join the global village? The message is "CUM-GUZZLING SLUTS LOVE THESE HORSES."

How about a more interesting bet (1)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029872)

If Congress doesn't pass his proposed bill, he resigns.

He's toast, then... (2)

legLess (127550) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029873)

I hope he has plans for retirement. Or a good explanation of how a U.S. law will affect spam coming from China.

I think his idea is great, and will (if implemented) have the intended effect on spam originating from inside the U.S. It will have a converse effect on spam from outside the U.S, though - we'll continue to get the same amount of spam, it'll just all come from China. Actually, we might get more spam, since I bet it's cheaper to send the shit from China.

The problem here is not that there aren't ways to stop spam (although that's part of the problem), but that spam makes money. As long as that's true, people will find a way to send it. C'mon - it's a freaking felony to carry a gram of cocaine, but hundreds of people do it every day, and few of them are caught.

Unless Lessig can get laws passed in literally every country with as much as a ISDN link to the U.S, this approach won't help much.

An alternate proposal (2, Insightful)

VORNAN-20 (318139) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029876)

Don't bother making spam illegal - it's a waste of time, there are too many ways around it even with a bounty. Instead, make it illegal to sell a product using spam ads (we need a careful definition of electronic trespass here). AND make it illegal to collaborate in financial transactions for companies that use spam. In other words VISA, MC, Discover, Amex etc, can't collect for any transaction for a product or service that used spam to advertise it.

Hit them where it hurts - in the pocketbook. And don't bother with the senders, it's the people that employ the senders that should be targeted.

Re:An alternate proposal (0)

shams42 (562402) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030035)

Please mod this up.

Re:An alternate proposal (1)

mrmookid (636392) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030082)

i don't know about you but i get a lot of spam for the new discover clear card and 0% interest. and also some visa cards. think the credit card companies care about spam? they benefit!

Win-Win For Lessig (2)

istartedi (132515) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029885)

Assuming Lessig really wants to leave Stanford, this is a Win-Win for him. If he "loses" the bet he sticks to his word and can spin himself as a "man of integrity". If he wins the bet he can quit for some other reason. So, the real question in my mind is "What does Lessig want to do after he leaves Stanford?".

Re:Win-Win For Lessig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029888)

What does Lessig want to do after he leaves Stanford?

I think that's already been answered above [slashdot.org] .

Do Bounties Actually Work (5, Insightful)

CptnKirk (109622) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029891)

Did bounties do anything to curb crime in the Wild West? Significantly? Plus way back then people only cared if the bounty was high. $100, $500, $1000 was a boatload of money back then. Heck if I could make that much now per message I'd be happy. But it won't happen.

We already have $50 per message laws on the books (at least in CA) and with the exception of a hand full of publicized cases, there has been little uptake.

In a world where one should be able to retire off the earnings of a family AOL account, it's a wonder existing laws aren't enough. It's simply too much work for too little return. It's too time consuming to plow through the forged headers, sue Yahoo for account information for user 123jlk213lkj and then still get nowhere.

If there was a tough national anti-spam law I'd support it. But for the love of God, give it teeth. Include a sliding scale for infractions ($500 for first, $5000 second, $50000 third). Include jail time for forged headers, and force persons operating under the "business relationship" clause to offer proof of such relationship in the message (at least a link one can follow to verify the relationship as well as request that the relationship be terminated). Require that the transfer of such a relationship be opt-in.

If this type of bounty system was put into place, the war on spam may actually be effective. Otherwise, good luck.

If you outlaw sending spam (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029900)

Only outlaws will send spam.

IN SOVIET RUSSIA.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029926)

The job resigns YOU!

I LOVE YOU (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5029978)

keep hope alive.

Re:IN SOVIET RUSSIA.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5030010)

I'll get moderated down for posting this, and it'd be well deserved, but I laughed pretty hard when I saw the current CNN Business page [cnn.com] : The headline "The Bush plan ... and you" made me doubletake that a Soviet Russia joke was on CNN.

Ah well maybe I'll post anonymously...

Sting the bastards into oblivion (5, Interesting)

Black Copter Control (464012) | more than 11 years ago | (#5029999)

Some time ago I found that spammers had managed to hijack the Windows proxy set up by one company that I worked for. When I found it, they were essentially using the full 1.5Megabit pipe to pump spam into the universe. Given that they were hijacking the computers for financial benefit, this was clearly illegal -- both in Canada (where I live) and in the US (where they were doing most of their business).

This leaves me thinking: shouldn't it be possible to use the ham-fisted anti-hacking laws against these bastares??? Not for spamming, but for hijacking peoples' computers to do the spamming with. I'd love to treat these bastards to 6-10 behind bars. Far better than a $100K fine that would be little more than a locense fee.

I tried to get an agreement with the company for the right to sue on their behalf in return for me helping to lock down their systems... They didn't go for it. My alternative approach is that I'd like to set up a similar system, wait for them to hack into it, and then do a hunt for the bastards running the scam. Any holes in this plan? (other than the probable difficulty in properly trackingg these people down?)

Overseas Spam (2)

Dredd13 (14750) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030013)

What will Lessig do when nearly all the spam comes through anonymised concat(relays,proxies)[rand] overseas, where the legislation has a value somewhere between "nil" and "dick"?

It's a worldwide problem. Unless you advocate a world-government that can kick ass on local countries (and I certainly don't), legislation will NOT solve the problem, it simply CAN'T.

What about Alan Ralsky? (aka: pond scum) (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5030049)

Ok, this is *very* offtopic, but does anyone know about what Alan Ralsky is up to at the moment - the physical mail should have started to get to him by now at least...

Sounds like this guy is going to be out of a job. (4, Interesting)

theLOUDroom (556455) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030053)

that is, even if the law was ever passed.

How can this guy forget that the internet is not contained entirely within the jurusduction of the US?

It's nor like the spammers need to move elsewhere anyways, all they need is some non-logging proxy outside US borders and they can post with impunity.

Let's not forget the number of spammers already located outside of the US, either.

The internet just does not work the way this guy thinks it does: there is never going to be a day when everyone just follows the rules and plays fair

The way to handle spam is not with laws, it's with technology. Legislative bodies move too slowly and don't understand the technology, nor the scope of the internet.

What needs to be used is a combination of many different technologies: filtering, blacklists, whitelist, etc.

The internet is a huge shared network. So big, that prentending that you can trust every node on it is moronic. Software needs to be designed to recognize when a node is misbehaving and deal with it as well as possible. This goes for not just spam but other types of internet abuse, such as DOS attacks, trying 100 passwords in a row, etc. If a computer is going to be connected to an untrusted network it needs to be able to properly handle all kinds of unwanted data. To me that's just common sense.

Fraud laws don't stop me from getting Nigerian scam emails, do they?

The best way to fight spam is to develop software that isn't vulnerable to it, just like we fix other vulnerabilities. The reason we have spam is because our software isn't good enough.

Think of an unfiltered email systen as accepting input from a web form without doing any checking on the data it's recieving. It leaves you open to tons of really easy attacks. (If someone puts a meg of text in a field and submits it, your cgi scripts are probably going to go apeshit.) It's just bad design and it's about time we fixed it.

I wonder... (1)

athlon02 (201713) | more than 11 years ago | (#5030083)

if he'd ever really decide (a) is true if Declan decides (b) is. People's honesty and sticking by their word isn't what it used to be... like a few liberal actors and actresses I know of who said they'd move to Europe is Bush Jr. was elected President and I'm still waiting to see that actually happen.
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