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The “lumber cartel” is a legend or “meme” from the early days of the internet, popularized by users of USENET newsgroups in the 1980s and 1990s. According to popular legend, the lumber cartel was composed of lumber companies who were secretly funding anti-spamming efforts, because spam email threatened the proliferation of paper bulk mail.
Some users took it upon themselves to promote the idea that the lumber cartel did not exist, either sincerely, or humorously with the tag line “There is no Lumber Cartel” (TinLC). Others propagated the idea of the lumber cartel, or used it in their online signatures. In large part, the idea of the lumber cartels went the way of USENET newsgroups as they diminished in the late 1990s. However, some websites dedicated to the idea still exist.
The idea which was often used as a joke, actually looks critically at the relationship between email and paper communications. Some websites now in use that talk about the lumber cartel are trying to limit not only bulk paper mail for its environmental effects, but email spam for the effect that has on the user community.