Federal Internet Law & Policy
An Educational Project


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- - Email Portability Proceeding
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Electronic Mail Address

(5) ELECTRONIC MAIL ADDRESS- The term `electronic mail address' means a destination, commonly expressed as a string of characters, consisting of a unique user name or mailbox (commonly referred to as the `local part') and a reference to an Internet domain (commonly referred to as the `domain part'), whether or not displayed, to which an electronic mail message can be sent or delivered.
CAN SPAM Act Sec. 3(5)

Electronic Mail Message

(6) ELECTRONIC MAIL MESSAGE- The term `electronic mail message' means a message sent to a unique electronic mail address.
CAN SPAM Act Sec. 3(6)


  After a user composes a message in an e-mail client program, a program called a mail transfer agent ("MTA") formats 2 that message and sends it to another program that "packetizes" it and sends the packets out to the Internet. Computers on the network then pass the packets from one to another; each computer along the route stores the packets in memory, retrieves the addresses of their final destinations, and then determines where to send them next. At various points the packets are reassembled to form the original e-mail message, copied, and then repacketized for the next leg of the journey. See J. Klensin, RFC 2821: Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (Apr. 2001); Jonathan B. Postel, RFC 821: Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (Aug. 1982), ("RFC 821"). Sometimes messages cannot be transferred immediately and must be saved for later delivery. Even when delivery is immediate, intermediate computers often retain backup copies, which they delete later. This method of transmission is commonly called "store and forward" delivery.
  Once all the packets reach the recipient's mail server, they are reassembled to form the e-mail message. A mail delivery agent ("MDA") accepts the message from the MTA, determines which user should receive the message, and performs the actual delivery
by placing the message in that user's mailbox. One popular MDA is "procmail," which is controlled by short programs or scripts called "recipe files." These recipe files can be used in various ways. For example, a procmail recipe can instruct the MDA to deposit mail addressed to one address into another user's mailbox (e.g., to send mail addressed to "help" to the tech support department), to reject mail from certain addresses, or to make copies of certain messages.
  Once the MDA has deposited a message into the recipient's mailbox, the recipient simply needs to use an e-mail client program to retrieve and read the message. While the journey from sender 3 to recipient may seem rather involved, it usually takes just a few seconds, with each intermediate step taking well under a second. See, e.g., W. Houser et al., RFC 1865: EDI Meets the Internet (Jan. 1996) ("For a modest amount of data with a dedicated connection, a message transmission would occur in a matter of seconds . . . .").

-- United States v. Councilman, ___ F3d ___ slip at 4-5 (1st Cir. Aug 11, 2005) (rehearing en banc)

602P Email Tax Hoax

A hoax that was not terribly serious but nevertheless resulted in a flurry of Congressional action was the infamous 602P hoax. According to a widely circulated email in 1999, Senator Schnell (German for "Fast") had recently introduced the legislative proposal 602P that would impose a 5 cent tax upon every email sent (or assess access charges on modems, aka "The Modem Tax"), with the proceeds going to the US Post Office. It was reported that the March 6 edition of Washingtonian Magazine included an editorial that supported the email tax. Panic spread and Congress was inundated by concerned citizens.

This hoax was an obvious deception. There was no Sen. Schnell. There is no congressional legislation numbering format that includes a "P"; legislation in the House would be H.R. 602 and legislation in the Senate would be S. 602. There was no March 6 edition of Washingtonian; it is a monthly periodical that does not publish issues on specific days. There was no editorial, there was no such legislation, and a Virginia law firm that was the hoax reported was leading the lobbying campaign against the bill did not exist.

Nevertheless, Washingtonian Magazine, the US Post Office, and a multitude of Congressional offices were so inundated by inquiries that they were forced to post responses disclaiming the existence of the legislation - and if it did exist, disclaiming any support for such legislation. In a perfect example of life inside the Beltway, Rep. Upton introduced legislation in response to the non-existence 602P, in order to prohibit the federal government from doing what it had no intention of doing; the measure passed the House.

602P Email Tax Links

Government Activity