Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law


David G. Post

First Page



MAPS, the primary focus of this tale, is a California non-profit limited liability company. It coordinates a kind of group boycott by Internet service providers (ISPs) for the purpose of reducing the flow of what is commonly called "spam"- unsolicited bulk e-mail. It operates, roughly, as follows. The managers of MAPS create and maintain what they call the "Realtime Blackhole List" (RBL), which consists of a long list of Internet addresses. They place on the RBL any Internet address from which, to their knowledge, spam has originated. They also place on the RBL the address of any network that allows "open-mail relay" or provides "spam support services."


What are we to make of things like the RBL? Here we have a problem--the proliferation of unsolicited mass e-mailing operations--that is, we might agree, a serious, or at least a non-trivial, one. At just the moment that e-mail has become an indispensable form of communication, of incalculable commercial and non-commercial importance for a substantial and ever-growing segment of the world community, its value is being undermined by a barrage of unwanted and unsolicited communications. But is the RBL a reasonable means of addressing this problem? To what extent can we, and should we, rely on things like the RBL to devise a "solution" (however we might define a solution) to that problem?

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