And then, over in theferrett's "If I had a nickel..." thread, jfargo wanted to have a nickel for every piece of spam he got.
Supposing bulk mailers were obligated to pay for every piece of bulk mail they sent -- not to some Central Internet Authority, but to the user who got the mail. Paypal, or some similar type of free-to-inexpensive-to-the-user sort of service, perhaps. This would cut down on unsolicited bulk mailing drastically, for the same reason that paying for physical stamps and physical printing cuts down on junk physical mail. Users who got bulk mail would get paid for their time spent reviewing and deleting it, and the amount of it they got to review and delete would be drastically cut.
If users signed up for a regular mailing list, say the monthly Fire Mountain Gems e-mail newsletter that I get, the company would not have to pay the user. But companies would have to include information on how often the mailing from them was expected to come, how the e-mail address had been gotten and when it was gotten. Unsolicited bulk mail sent with an existing business relationship between the bulk mailer and the user might be subject to a discount, but not a complete removal of the micropayment. If companies got too many complaints against them for invalidly opting-in people to their mailing lists, or sent out unsolicited mail without a valid payment, they would be liable for serious amounts of money in damages to all affected users.
At least a token amount of the money (minimum five to ten cents, perhaps?) would need to be in actual currency; the bulk mailers could at their descretion include coupons for their goods/services, but the coupons would not be part of the mandated actual money given to the user.
Thoughts? Comments? Refinements? Places to pitch this?