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September 11, 2007

Too LawOpen? Commercial E-mails Clog Inboxes

It began on July 6, 2007, at 6:03 p.m. The responsible party, a 3L who shall remain nameless, might have been blissfully unaware of the tide he was ushering in. The message was short. It went like this: “Buying Notre Dame tickets. If you are selling, let me know.” Since that day, the e-mail accounts of every law student at the University of Michigan have been flooded with hundreds of e-mail solicitations for semi-legal (see Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.465) football ticket transactions.

Out of a random sampling of 1,000 e-mails sent to LawOpen over the last three months, 652 of them were for the purchase or sale of football tickets, while an additional 246 of them were aimed at buying and selling various other items, from course packs and textbooks to furniture. It appears that fully 90% of the messages on LawOpen are commercial.

It’s easy to get worked up over this situation. What is less clear is what to do about it. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure: Those who complain about ticket-sellers on one hand are only too anxious to beg the captive audience of 1,000+ law students to borrow a laptop cable (or, around finals time, a whole laptop!). Those who love to hawk their wares in the football ticket marketplace are the first to write angry emails chastising use of the list as a bully pulpit for political debaters. “Something for everyone” quickly turns into “something for everyone to hate.”
Many people bring up the digest option, by which you can choose to receive a whole day’s LawOpen offerings in one long email, as a solution. We would suggest that the digest feature is part of the problem. Though we may clash on precisely which topics represent the biggest peril to inbox feng shui, we can surely all agree that receiving e-mail asking the same question or making the same point as was asked or made in a post several hours prior can ruin anybody’s good mood. It’s all well and good for someone to save himself the hassle by receiving the digest, but is it really fair to the rest of us when he then lobs gruesome chunks of spam over that little barricade he hides behind?

One possible solution is to prohibit postings that offer to buy or sell anything. LSSS polices LawStudents effectively, and a similar effort could clean up LawOpen. Another possible solution is the creation of an additional listserv for sales. The creation of LawSales would meet the obvious demand for a quick-response forum for sales, one that is apparently unfulfilled by the Law School Classifieds, and would free up space on LawOpen for the spread of other types of information. In any case, one topic sure to stir up a lively debate, and yet equally relevant to all members of the Law School community, is what to do about the spam-mobile that LawOpen has become.