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ISP's May Face Liability For Altering Email

Rich Ord
CEO, iEntry, Inc.
Published: 2006-02-07

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The recent announcement by AOL and Yahoo that they are going to use a pay to play email system called Goodmail raises an interesting question.

Should any ISP have the right to alter content in an email if they have no evidence of spam or fraud? With the Goodmail announcement AOL stated that opt-in publisher who don't pay risk having their links and images disabled. Many ISP's make loading images a choice of the user but I know of none that disable links.

It could be argued that altering content of an opt-in email newsletter libels the sender. If a publishers links don't work the reader is likely to blame the sender not their ISP. This damages the reputation of email publishers. Similarly, if an ISP puts an email publication in the spam folder when it has no evidence of actual spam isn't this itself making a potentially false statment to the recipient.

Obviously, none of this has been argued in a court of law but as the publisher of the iEntry Network I'm predicting it will be. If ISP's adopt the Goodmail system and require publishers to pay or risk an ISP moving your opt-in content to the spam folder and then possibly disabling links and images many publisher will begrudgingly pay.

I believe this may be the tipping point where publishers may force a test of whether ISP's can legally alter email content and even lable content as spam when they themselves cannot produce evidence that justifies these actions. An ISP's need for money cannot justify this in my opinion.

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About the Author:
Rich Ord is the CEO of iEntry, Inc. which publishes over 200 websites and email newsletters.

Rich also publishes his blog WebProBlog which focuses on internet business and marketing trends.

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