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LinuxWorld Expo Calls Irk Alumni

Dec 12, 2003, 16:00 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

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By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

A minor hue and cry was stirred in the Linux community late this week with the arrival of apparently unsolicited, automated phone calls from the organizers of LinuxWorld Expo.

But the calls, while not always welcome, were actually not unsolicited and perfectly legal under the Telecommunications Act of 1991.

The call from LinuxWorld Expo's organizers, International Data Group, Inc., used an automated message inviting LinuxWorld Expo alumni back to next month's New York show as part of the Expo's Linux Masters program. The message was dialed to any past participants and attendees of LWE, including this reporter.

Readers contacted Linux Today and raised the concern that such automated messages were considered illegal in the United States under the aforementioned Telecommunications Act, which bans unsolicited automated calls. Other readers brought up the National Do Not Call Registry, as some calls were received on lines included on that database. In my case, the call arrived on a line also registered with the Indiana Do Not Call list.

So how did IDG get to make these calls and not break the law?

The National Do Not Call Registry is primarily governed by the Telecommunications Act of 1991, which clearly states that a telemarketer cannot "Initiate any telephone call to any residential telephone line using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message without the prior express consent of the called party, unless the call is initiated for emergency purposes or is exempted by sec. 64.1200(c)..."

But it is within the very definition of an "unsolicited call" that IDG could make these calls. Later in the Act, it states that

  1. "The term 'telephone solicitation' means the initiation of a telephone call or message for the purpose of encouraging the purchase or rental of, or investment in, property, goods, or services, which is transmitted to any person, but such term does not include a call or message
    1. "to any person with that person's prior express invitation or permission,
    2. "to any person with whom the caller has an established business relationship, or
    3. "by a tax-exempt nonprofit organization..."

And it is under the "established business relationship" that IDG can make these calls.

"The law states that companies can contact consumers by phone if there has been a business relationship between the two parties within the last 18 months," explained Beth Wickenhiser, PR Specialist for IDG World Expo, "All of the individuals contacted by IDG World Expo have registered for a recent LinuxWorld Conference & Expo event; therefore, there is an established business relationship in place."

Wickenhiser also maintained that the National Do Not Call Registry only applies to residential lines, not business phone numbers. Upon contacting the Indiana State Attorney General's office, it was learned that a similar clause is in place for the state's Do Not Call database as well.

"The voice messaging campaign was designed to ensure our LinuxWorld Conference & Expo alumni are aware of the fast-approaching early bird registration discount for the upcoming event," Wickenhiser added. "If an individual does not want to be contacted with this kind of information in the future, they can ask to be removed from IDG World Expo's list by calling LinuxWorld customer service."

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