Friday, February 9, 2007

Rost Raises the Issue of Libel: My Apology

OK. I started this, so I should finish it.

A few days ago I accused Peter Rost (Question Authority) of sending me unsolicited bulk e-mail (spam) in violation of the CAN-SPAM law (see "Rost Spams!") . Yesterday, Peter retorted that it was not spam because he did not send the email in bulk and only to people he has had a previous business relationship with.

In that retort Peter raises the issue of libel (see "Pharmablogosphere: Spam or libel?"). When Peter threatens legal action -- even between the lines -- you have to take notice.

As you may know, Rost has other, bigger fish to fry (ie, Pfizer) and he is concerned that any accusations against him could hurt his case. So, I feel his pain.

He says: "Of course, I figure that John was just having fun and not seriously accusing me of a crime, so I'm not seriously accusing him of libel."

Peter, you know I don't think you are a criminal. If anything, I wanted to point out that I thought your e-mail was in violation, something that could happen if you didn't know the details of the CAN-SPAM law (silly me to think that you wouldn't know the details). That is, I never thought you intended to break the law.

But let's examine if it was spam at all.

Looking at the header of the e-mail that Peter sent me, it appears that it was indeed sent by Peter personally using hotmail with multiple recipients in the BBC field. People do that in regular business correspondence to keep the recipients' e-mail addresses confidential. You might recall that failure to keep e-mail addresses confidential is what got Lilly into hot water with the FTC (see "The FTC-Lilly Consent Decree: What it Means for PHARMA Vendors and Partners").

I guess what Peter did is not considered a "bulk" e-mail tactic. If that is the case and the e-mail was sent to acquaintances, it fails to meet the definition of spam and would not be covered by the US CAN-SPAM act. Also, it means that Peter used techniques to protect the privacy of recipients.

I feel, therefore, that I owe Peter an apology for calling him a spammer. Sorry, Peter.

Can I get a T-shirt now?

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