I filed my first FTC complaint today

What’s an FTC complaint? – The rules for email marketing are defined by the CAN SPAM act. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) fields complaints and enforces the law. Each unsolicited email a company sends can result in a $16,000 fine. So most legitimate businesses do not send emails that do not contain a mechanism that allows email recipients to opt-out (remove themselves from the list) and that violate CAN PAM in any way. To file a complaint against a spammer, or an internet fraudster, just go to the FTC Complaint website.

Since February 4, 2010 I’ve received five emails from a company called Weber Shandwick that have marketed General Motors products. Weber Shandwick appears to me a very professional marketing/advertising agency so I can only imagine that General Motors is a client and these emails are the result of a paid marketing campaign. None of the emails contained the required CAN SPAM language or opt out links. I’ve asked them to be removed from their distribution lists with no action on their part.

So I slogged through the FTC website and filed the complaint. Ironically I should now probably report the FTC site for not being ADA compliant… I was shocked at all rotten javascript on a government website. Most of those were cleaned up years ago. But I can only tilt at one windmill per day and what’s the government going to do, fine itself!? LOL

So… if you know who is spamming you, and you have 30 minutes to potentially waste, file a complaint. Most unsolicited email you’ll receive from someone recognizable is CAN SPAM compliant, so most of the time it’s not worth the effort because there is no way to stop all spammers. Big corporate email marketers should be much smarter than that.

If you’re curious… here are the emails I received from Weber Shandwick.

Information wants to be free

This is a simple idea, but I wanted to explain what I mean by the statement, information wants to be free, and how it can apply to business and the internet.

The basic concept is that all information, including all types of content and data, have a natural attraction to people and if the barriers (patents, copyrights, access, etc) were removed that information would be passed from person to person automatically. Information would flow like water running down a hill. The more useful or desirable the information the faster it would flow.

In business the people that best know this to be a natural fact are probably intellectual property attorneys since they spend their professional lives fighting the flow. People who own information are also keenly aware of it and spend a good deal of energy working to prevent others from using their information without permission and/or payment.

Some people freely allow the use of the content they create. For example well known blogger Leo Babauta has coined the term uncopyrighted, at least I believe it was Leo. He freely allows people to reuse his content in any way. It also seems to work for him, his blog is on the top 100 with over 170,000 readers.

Google is another good example of how giving information freely can be monetized. Google doesn’t give away all their information, hardly, but they give away so much that it has driven them to the top of internet businesses. Their financial success has made them a corporate giant.

So how does one monetize the natural fact that information wants to be free? In many ways I think we all do it to some degree. In an odd sort of way even a retail shop provides free entertainment and free access to pricing and physical products to potential buyers, even if they never actually give any product away.

The trick is finding the balance between giving things away and selling similar things with a higher value to the subset of people that want more.