Can I create lists from public sources?

Our spam policy prohibits creating a list of addresses taken from Web pages or public postings, or generating random addresses to send messages to. The recipients simply have not given you permission to send them messages.

This applies even if the recipients seem like they might be interested in your mailing list. The fact that people work in the French studies department of a university, for example, does not mean it's okay to send them messages promoting your revolutionary new French dictionary.

"Harvesting" email addresses from public sources, and generating random email addresses for use in unsolicited mail, are also both often illegal under United States federal law.

What about sending press releases to addresses that ask for them?

If a company's current public Web page gives permission to send press releases or similar messages to certain addresses at that company, then that's okay. That counts as obtaining "verified permission" under our spam policy, since you can prove a message is not spam by showing anyone the Web page.

For example, the New York Times website has a page inviting people to send press releases to certain addresses ending with "". Sending press releases to those addresses is fine: they've given explicit permission.

This exception is valid only if the address is currently listed on a public Web page for that company. Don't make the mistake of buying a list of outdated or dubious press contacts from a third party. These often contain people who no longer want press releases, if they ever did (and who will complain about receiving them). If you've obtained a list of press contacts that contains addresses that look personal (for example, ending in "") instead of institutional (for example, ending in ""), that's a major red flag.