This afternoon a vendor to the content industry s*pammed hundreds of Newsletter & Electronic Publishers Association members with an unsolicited sales message. Patty Wysocki at the Association assures me they don't rent their email names. The vendor must have harvested them without permission from the group's membership directory.
Why should you care? Because if you publish a directory online or offline that includes email addresses, chances are an ill-educated vendor will blunder into making the same mistake with your data. This can hurt your organization in three ways:
#1. If a single person reports the message sent to S*pamCop and your organization is named in the message (i.e. 'Special offer for NEPA members'), you will be added to their blacklist irregardless of the fact that you didn't send the message yourself.
This may cause your own web site host to suspect you are a spammer, and they may even threaten to take your site down. (Yes, it's even happened to us after a spammer mentioned one of our brand names in a message.)
#2. Everyone listed in your directory will think twice next time about giving you their email address, which makes your editorial content that much less valuable for purchasers who may want to contact individuals, well, individually.
3. Some recipients may assume you rented their name to the spammer, even if you have clear policies against doing so. That again can cause strained relationships. And in this economy, the last thing we need is more strain. :-)
How can you avoid this in the future? Try adding a line of copy at the bottom of every page (or screen) of your directory that clearly states no one may use the email addresses contained herein to create and/or broadcast messages to a list of names. It's not actually the letter of the law (copyright law doesn't protect directories as much as one would hope) but a clear statement like this can at least make dummies think twice about what they are doing.
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