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There has been considerable historical and legal precedent which supports your right to prevent the delivery of unsolicited junk mail to your home.  For centuries, your homes and residences have been considered a special sanctuary free from intrusion by strangers, monarchs or other unwanted guests.  Throughout history and certainly since the birth of this nation, privacy has been considered a right special to all individual citizens, as evidenced by the United States Constitution, many statutes and case law.  A few of the more significant quotes which provide a solid foundation for your right to cease the delivery of unwanted junk mail follow.      

      William Pitt 

The phrase associated with persons’ homes being their castles derives from a speech delivered by him in the English House of Commons on March, 1763:     

“The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail---its roof may shake--the wind may blow through it-- the storm may enter--the rain may enter--but the King of England cannot enter!---all these forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!”

Justice Brandeis of the United States Supreme Court

In 1890, he praised “a right to be left alone.”

Rowan v. U.S Post Office Dept., U.S. 728 (1970)

Rowan is a seminal case involving a challenge to the constitutionality of a federal postal statute under which a person may request that his name be removed from a mailing list and stop all future mailings to the household.  The parties that were contesting this law were publishers, distributors, owners and operators of mail order houses, mailing list brokers, and owners and operators of mail service organizations.  Writing for a unanimous Court, Chief Justice Burger resoundingly rejected the direct mailers’ requests to strike down this law.  In firmly approving an individual’s right to bar unsolicited mail from his or her home, he noted in sweeping language while citing other cases:

“ In today's complex society we are inescapably captive audiences for many purposes, but a sufficient measure of individual autonomy must survive to permit every householder to exercise control over unwanted mail. To make the householder the exclusive and final judge of what will cross his threshold undoubtedly has the effect of impeding the flow of ideas, information, and arguments that, ideally, he should receive and consider. Today's merchandising methods, the plethora of mass mailings subsidized by low postal rates, and the growth of the sale of large mailing lists as an industry in itself have changed the mailman from a carrier of primarily private communications, as he was in a more leisurely day, and have made him an adjunct of the mass mailer who sends unsolicited and often unwanted mail into every home. It places no strain on the doctrine of judicial notice to observe that whether measured by pieces or pounds, everyman's mail today is made up overwhelmingly of material he did not seek from persons he does not know. And all too often it is matter he finds offensive.

In Martin v. City of Struthers, 319 U.S. 141 (1943), Mr. Justice Black, for the Court, while supporting the '(f) reedom to distribute information to every citizen,' acknowledged a limitation in terms of leaving 'with the homeowner himself' the power to decide 'whether distributors of literature may lawfully call at a home.' Weighing the highly important right to communicate, but without trying to determine where it fits into constitutional imperatives, against the very basic right to be free from sights, sounds, and tangible matter we do not want, it seems to us that a mailer's right to communicate must stop at the mailbox of an unreceptive addressee.

The Court has traditionally respected the right of a householder to bar, by order or notice, solicitors, hawkers, and peddlers from his property. In this case the mailer's right to communicate is circumscribed only by an affirmative act of the addressee giving notice that he wishes no further mailings from that mailer.

To hold less would tend to license a form of trespass and would make hardly more sense than to say that a radio or television viewer may not twist the dial to cut off an offensive or boring communication and thus bar its entering his home. Nothing in the Constitution compels us to listen to or view any unwanted communication, whatever its merit; we see no basis for according the printed word or pictures a different or more preferred status because they are sent by mail. The ancient concept that 'a man's home is his castle' into which 'not even the king may enter' has lost none of its vitality, and none of the recognized exceptions includes any right to communicate offensively with another.

Both the absoluteness of the citizen's right under sec. 4009 and its finality are essential; what may not be provocative to one person may well be to another.  In operative effect the power of the householder under the statute is unlimited; he may prohibit the mailing of a dry goods catalog because he objects to the contents-or indeed the text of the language touting the merchandise. Congress provided this sweeping power not only to protect privacy but to avoid possible constitutional questions that might arise from vesting the power to make any discretionary evaluation of the material in a governmental official. In effect, Congress has erected a wall-or more accurately permits a citizen to erect a wall-that no advertiser may penetrate without his acquiescence. The continuing operative effect of a mailing ban once imposed presents no constitutional obstacles; the citizen cannot be put to the burden of determining on repeated occasions whether the offending mailer has altered its material so as to make it acceptable. Nor should the householder have to risk that offensive material come into the hands of his children before it can be stopped.

We therefore categorically reject the argument that a vendor has a right under the Constitution or otherwise to send unwanted material into the home of another. If this prohibition operates to impede the flow of even valid ideas, the answer is that no one has a right to press even 'good' ideas on an unwilling recipient. That we are often 'captives' outside the sanctuary of the home and subject to objectionable speech and other sound does not mean we must be captives everywhere. The asserted right of a mailer, we repeat, stops at the outer boundary of every person's domain.

The appellants also contend that the requirement that the sender remove the addressee's name from all mailing lists in his possession violates the Fifth Amendment because it constitutes a taking without due process of law. The appellants are not prohibited from using, selling, or exchanging their mailing lists; they are simply required to delete the names of the complaining addressees from the lists and cease all mailings to those persons. “  (Emphasis supplied.)

     Tillman v. Distribution Systems of America, Inc., 224 A.D.2d 79, 648 N.Y.S.2d 630 (1996) appeal dismissed 677 NE.2d 289, 89 N.Y. 2d 938 (1997).

Similarly, the Tillman case involved the delivery of unwanted, unsolicited paper to a home—in this case, a newspaper.  The Tillman court commented:

We hold that neither a publisher nor a distributor has any constitutional right to continue to throw a newspaper onto the property of an unwilling recipient after having been notified not to do so.  "Traditionally, the American law punishes persons who enter onto the property of another after having been warned by the owner to keep off * * * [The State may leave] the decision as to whether distributors of literature may lawfully call at a home where it belongs - with the homeowner himself. [The State] can punish those who call at a home in defiance of the previously expressed will of the occupant" (Martin v City of Struthers, 319 U.S. 141)  "We perceive of no reason crucial to defendant's First Amendment rights that would require a householder to retrieve an unwanted paper from his lawn" ( Emphasis supplied.)


A complex and ever evolving series of state and federal laws have been enacted to protect you from the constant sharing of your personal information by various direct mailers, marketers, financial institutions, list brokers, information clearinghouses, credit reporting companies and their affiliates.  Some of these statutes and regulations provide for monetary penalties for the failure to comply with their provisions.  Some of the more significant laws and very brief summaries of their provisions follow.  Space does not allow for an exhaustive discussion of each law or regulation, so you should consult the particular laws directly to understand their full scope, purpose and application.

·        Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681, et seq.

Regulates the collection and use of personal data by credit reporting agencies.  Requires that when a data broker is hired to prepare an investigation into a consumer’s character, general reputation, personal characteristics and mode of living that the subject of the report must be advised of the nature of the investigation.  Requires disclosure of information disseminated by reporting agencies to the consumer.  Prohibits certain disclosures of certain information in consumer reports, and allows for damage actions and civil penalties.


·        Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 1996

A reform of and amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, it imposes much more strict guidelines on the sharing of personal consumer information.

·        Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 15 U.S.C. 1691, et seq.

Restricts inquiries into a credit applicant’s sex, race, color, religion or marital status.  Regulates the manner in which information collected by creditors may be used in making decisions concerning creditworthiness.


·        Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692, et seq.

Limits the communications that debt collection agencies may make about the debtors whose accounts they are attempting to collect.


·        Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 552a, et seq.

Mandates that personal data be collected as much as possible from the actual subject.  Requires that when an agency requests information about an individual, it notifies the individual of the agency’s authorization and purpose for collecting the information.


·        Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, 15 U.S.C. 6801, et seq.

Regulates the privacy of personally identifiable nonpublic personal information disclosed to non-affiliated third parties by financial institutions.  Requirements also attach to non-affiliated third parties to whom they transfer this information.


·        Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552, et seq.

Provides individuals with access to many kinds of records that are exempt from access under the Privacy Act, including those containing personal information.



·        Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. 2721

Prohibits state departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) from releasing personal information from drivers’ license and motor vehicle records.



·        FTC Opt-out regulations

http://www.occ.treas.gov/fr/cfrpar s/12CFR40.htm


·        Vermont’s Opt-in regulations

Issued by Vermont’s Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities & Health Care Administration, these regulations govern the use and transmission of nonpublic personal financial information about individuals who obtain products or services for personal, family or household uses.  It requires companies to inform consumers of efforts to transmit this information before sending it and, and allows the consumer to prohibit its dissemination.  In short, this legislation creates a presumption that the consumer does not want his or her information shared from the outset unless the company is advised otherwise.

At least twelve other states have similar opt-in legislation pending, including Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, Minnesota, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and New Mexico.


·        California’s Shine the Light Law

A law implemented effective January 1, 2005, which requires businesses to advise the consumer with whom they share personal information.


·        National Do Not Call Registry

This law is a registry that consumers can subscribe to in order to bar or reduce unsolicited telemarketers from calling specified telephone numbers.



·        Anti-Spam laws

The so-called Can Spam Act of 2003 is directed at reducing unsolicited spam on your computer.  There are

some 38 states that have also enacted anti spam laws.


·        Identity Theft laws



Learn More:
  Identity theft

Other facts
Your time

How to solve your junk mail problems?
Junk mail defined


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