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Re: 6. Proposal - Sender Pays - Article (was Re: [Asrg] ziff-davis editorial on sender-pays)

2003-10-01 13:48:33
Yakov Shafranovich wrote:
To summarize the article, the following problems apply to sender-pays:

1. The Internet is global - "So implementing Sender Pays would require an international treaty".

No, it only requires a multinational money-transfer agency, or a group of such that can collectively manage this. Like Western Union, or the global banking system, which seems to handle wire transfers just fine worldwide.

2. "Micropayments remain a problem."

As their volume increases, their individual overhead will go down, due to economies of scale. It may not be economical for a bank to allow the transfer of 5 cents, or 1 cent, or a fraction thereof today, but it is becoming cheaper at a steady pace. Again, not an insurmountable problem.

3. "Payment systems would have to be set up so that innocent parties wouldn't be stuck covering the cost of other persons' e-mails. Probably everyone would have to pay some amount in advance to cover the mail we might send." 5. "Here's another interesting problem: allegations have been made that there are Internet worms and other attacks that create an open proxy for spammers on an infected system" - "While this particular form of hijacking is built on old-fashioned SMTP, it would still suggest that Sender Pays will require that we first solve the open proxy problem—yet another difficult issue."

3 seems almost nonsensical. Is the author worried about hijacked accounts? This is already a problem in the world in the form of identity theft, and it costs more than and does more damage than sending a few million emails. And the systems to detect this used in the real world are even easier to apply to email, because there must be some central point from which the charge is drawn, and unlike credit charges, which can be delyed, email, especially bulk email, is sent as a large lump, and is thus easily detectable by whatever credit agent (bank, ISP, w/e) handles the charges. 5 deals with a non-issue in secure client systems. The malacious agent would be unable to authenticate itself as the owner or a user of the system it resides on, and thus messages it sends would be rejected.

Another approach to solving the hijacking problem would be to hold users liable for any messages sent that authenticate successfully as being sent by them. This provides an economic incentive to secure one's system, and could also lead to an insurance system for large entities (think multi-billion dollar corporations) that would pool this risk and provide a similar incentive to keep one's premium down.

4. "by adding a cost to a message, Sender Pays would certainly impact the free e-mail business. Such services would have to decide whether to pass the costs along or pick up the tab."

Odds are that the elimination of spam will save them much more than this will cost them. And if it doesn't, they will be forced to adapt or die. At any rate, a person could certainly consent to receive mail that does not have a payment enclosed, if they wish to correspond with another person who is unable to pay for email transmission.

Philip Miller

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