Monday, October 27, 2003
Academic dishonestly amongst spammers?
I'm seeing more and more spam that comes in multiple parts. The first part contains plain text and has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the product being pitched:
From: "Lajuan Aldona" <email@example.com>
To: "Sean Conner" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Sean, Phenomenal Fl 4.72% rates - Now is the time
Date: Mon, 27 Oct 2003 18:41:02 -0700
The option of Napster paying royalties to artists whose songs are downloaded would be a positive move because it would mean that artists receive fair compensation for their work.
However, on the other hand, to support the enormous cost of such a move, Napster would either have to turn into a paid subscription service, or show advertising (which wouldn't necessarily cover the costs). Added to this, the cost of modifying the application, and working out a way to determine what songs have been downloaded, the administration costs for Napster would skyrocket.
And so on. Then comes the actual pitch, always in HTML:
Content-Type: text/html; charset="iso-8859-1"
<p> <font size="2" face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"> <strong> Mortgage Rate Network </strong> <br> <hr> <br> <strong> Dear Sean Conner, </strong> </font> <font size="2" face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"> <br> TURN LOW INTEREST RATES INTO LOW HOUSE PAYMENTS </font> <font size="6" face="Webdings"> H </font> <font size="2" face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"> <br> <hr> </font> <br> <font size="2" face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"> If you haven't considered refinancing your home loan, you may be missing out on the best opportunity in years to save money. <br>
And so on; I'll spare you the horrible HTML used in the message.
Now, my guess is that the first section of text is there to bypass any Bayesian filters by bulking out the message with some real text. I've been seeing that more and more recently so either Bayesian filtering is getting quite effective, or the spammers think Bayesian filtering is getting quite effective, but in any case, messages like this are on the rise.
But the text used to bulk out the message is obviously copied in from somewhere. It then hit me, such bulking out appears to fall outside the scope of “fair use” since the spammer isn't writing an academic paper, critique, review or satire, and the purpose is purely commercial in nature (even if the commercial use isn't in the selling or reselling of the text in question but to get by filters to get the actual commercial message through) that such spammers are therefore liable for copyright infringement (in addition to possible anti-spamming laws that may be in place).
Curious as to where this text came from, I did a search on a fragment, and if I thought spammers using cut-n-paste to get by Bayesian filters was surprising, what I found was even more so! 4 Free Essays? Cheat House? Academic papers for sale? No wonder companies like Turn It In exist (and spiders my site constantly). I honestly don't know what's worse, spammers, or sites selling academic papers to spammers.
Man, what am I doing in this basket, and why is it so hot?