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Re: AOL holes again.

  • From: Steven M. Bellovin
  • Date: Tue Mar 20 20:26:20 2001

In message <>, Shawn McMahon writes:
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
>Content-Disposition: inline
>Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable
>On Tue, Mar 20, 2001 at 06:47:31PM -0500, wrote:
>> > Especially those who've read the 1986 law requiring it.
>> Citation, please?
>Title 18, Chapter 119, sections 2510 through 2522.
>It forbids "interception" of electronic mail.
>Interception is defined as "acquiring the contents", but it's defined
>broadly enough that if you get the message onto your hard drive and don't
>deliver it, obviously you weren't acquiring it for the purpose of
>delivering it, so you have intercepted it for reasons not related to
>providing the service, and thus have committed a felony for EACH email

That's a preposterous interpretation.  18 USC 2511(2)(a)(i) says:

	It shall not be unlawful under this chapter for an operator
	of a switchboard, or an officer, employee, or agent of a
	provider of wire or electronic communication service, whose
	facilities are used in the transmission of a wire or
	electronic communication, to intercept, disclose, or use
	that communication in the normal course of his employment
	while engaged in any activity which is a necessary incident
	to the rendition of his service or to the protection of
	the rights or property of the provider of that service,
	except that a provider of wire communication service to
	the public shall not utilize service observing or random
	monitoring except for mechanical or service quality control

See  In other words,
reception of the mail is legal, since that's a necessary part of
the service delivery, and given how much load spam places on ISPs
rejecting it is permissible as protecting the property of the service
provider.  As for the last clause -- the law defines "provider of 
wire communication service" as (more or less) a phone company; ISPs
are "electronic communication service" providers, and hence are not
covered by that.

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