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"I will spam your readers, at no cost to you!"


I've been getting notes in email lately from spammers offering to write guest posts in my blog.

The latest one is the best so far. I'm reluctant to post the whole thing, because even spammers own the copyright on what they write (and this one was clearly written by a human), but the gist of it (paraphrased) was this:

I'm a pro writer, I work for a website that sells “recreational seating” (a.k.a. sofas), and I'd like to write a great guest post for your blog, in order to improve both our and your search-results ranking.

Here's the best line: “Obviously [the article] doesn't have to be anything to do with sofas (man, that would be dull!)”

I got news for you, Ms. or Mr. Spammer: a real professional writer would probably be able to write something interesting and entertaining about sofas.

(As an aside, I got curious and visited the site, and they look professional and legit, not at all like the fly-by-night ad farm I was expecting. I dropped them a note recommending that they discontinue this ill-considered spam scheme.)

I'm mildly annoyed by these sorts of solicitations, but mostly I'm amused. But I'm also a little puzzled, because the web I know and love doesn't work this way. Do real bloggers ever allow random spammer strangers to write guest posts to improve their search-results ranking? A huge part of the appeal of the blogs I read is the voices and personalities of the bloggers. I would expect that the only people who would go along with this scheme are the spammers whose blogs consist of spam entries. And I assume that most such spammers are using automated content-generation tools these days.

There are certainly content farms that post stuff written by humans. But they're not looking for guest bloggers either.

But maybe I'm wrong; the web is big, and maybe there are people who want badly enough to improve their blog's visibility that they're willing to post guest posts by spammers. So in the unlikely event that any of y'all are considering such a deal, I recommend against it. It's not worth the cost to your reputation.


Um, can you name for me the legal basis for not posting the email solicitation? I mean not posting it because it is annoying is one thing, but I am not clear on the legal basis that would prohibit a person receiving an unsolicited email from posting that email in a public or semi-public place. Certainly the worst case scenario would be a DMCA take-down notice, right? Just curious if you know of a basis for this. I think it would be protected speech, especially if the surrounding text has a satirical component. :-)

The legal basis is pretty straightforward. Once you write something — anything, including emails, blog comments, and other private or semi-private communications — that's not work-for-hire, you hold copyright on it. If someone else republishes it, that's illegal. (Fair use applies — you can excerpt a small piece of it, as Jed could have done here, for purposes of satire or commentary. But fair use never applies to the entire text of a composition.)

Of course, bloggers and journalists and everybody else in the world repost other people's words without permission all the time. The fact that Jed could almost certainly get away with it — or, as you say, suffer no more than a takedown notice — doesn't change the fact that it would indeed be a copyright violation.

This is not a trendy position to take. But it is the way the law works.

I hereby thank you for introducing me to the term "recreational seating." I will endeavor to use this regularly. Well, the term. I am sitting on a sofa right now -- WHILE WORKING FROM HOME. Wait, I'm mixing business and leisure! Save meeeeeee

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