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SPA can't resist sending spam

The Software Publishers Association, one of the largest trade groups in the industry, spams system administrators with "educational" email.

One of the largest trade groups in the software industry is using one of the most reviled practices on the Internet to further its goals: spam.

The Software Publishers Association confirmed that it sent email detailing the organization's Internet Anti-Piracy Campaign to a targeted audience of more than 300,000 FTP system administrators. The mass correspondence was designed to enlighten them about software piracy, the group said.

The email, sent by Sandra Sellers, vice president of intellectual property for the SPA, irritated many of its recipients. Many readers found one passage especially annoying: "Pirate activity violates the integrity of the Internet, utilizes valuable bandwidth, and crashes servers--often to the detriment of your users and your system." Spam has many of the exact same detrimental effects.

"In her very own spam, she stated that software piracy represents a drain on Internet bandwidth. And what does she expect that 300,000 spam email advertisements do? Glide silently on little mice feet?" wrote one angry reader.

The unsolicited mass emailing by a software advocacy group underscores how seductive the Internet can be as an inexpensive means to reach thousands of people, despite the odds that the recipients won't appreciate the message.

"We do a lot of proactive education about piracy," said Sellers. "This is the first time we have used a target audience, FTP sites."

Sellers, who said the mailing was a "one-time thing," called the email "purely educational." But that didn't stop recipients from feeling a bit anxious, and then annoyed, when they received the mailings with the foreboding subject heading: "SPA Piracy Notice."

One business owner who didn't want his name to be used in criticizing the SPA said he received the email even though he is not a systems administrator and doesn't know how to operate an FTP.

"It's like getting a note from the IRS: you don't know if it's a refund or an audit until you've opened the envelope," he said. "By then you've already had the heart attack."

Although he pointed out that he had no problem with the body of the message, he said the incident "further reminds me, as a business owner, how important it is to be overly sensitive with email."