System Policies and Guidelines
Winlink (WL2K) is a global radio email service. Most gateway sysops and radio email users are subject to amateur radio regulations. Winlink is also used for MARS and government and non-government agency communications on frequencies outside the amateur bands. Different regulations apply to those users. It is always the responsibility of all radio licensees to operate within the laws and rules that apply to their license and location. Winlink administrators exercise the self-regulation customs common in amateur radio, and so, to assist Winlink participants to stay out of trouble, and to foster orderly operations, we offer these guidelines and policies that we operate by. The following guidelines reflect the licensing and operating rules and regulations that commonly govern Winlink participants. Operating within these guidelines will keep most operators within the laws that govern them, and also avoid administrative actions by the Winlink Team.
Do Not Interfere
Listen first! Because a live human being (control operator) is always present at the initiating station, there is one common theme paramount to the successful operation of the system: simply listen on the frequency about to be used to determine if that frequency is occupied. Obviously, if the frequency is occupied by any detectable signal, the proper action is to either wait until it is free before transmitting, or find another Radio Message Server (RMS or gateway station) whose frequencies are not busy. Not only is this a common courtesy to other operators, but it is a specific requirement of every country's rules regulating amateur radio licenses, worldwide.
Remember that there is no privacy over amateur radio. Anyone who is properly equipped can read messages handled by Winlink. Each gateway sysop routinely monitors messages passing through their station to ensure acceptable message content. Any message violating local rules is deleted and the sender advised. Gateway sysops are legally responsible for traffic flowing through their stations.
Third-party traffic is any message transmitted that is either from or to a non-amateur licensee. In the Western Hemisphere (with a few exceptions) there is no restriction on third-party traffic being passed over amateur radio. Many countries outside of the Western Hemisphere also now permit third-party traffic over amateur radio. Messages between amateurs if they originate from or are delivered over Internet are not considered third-party traffic. Third-party traffic rules only deal with that portion of the message path which is transmitted over the radio spectrum.
For example: if a message originates from a non-amateur as an internet email in the U.K. and is delivered to a U.S. amateur over the radio from a gateway station in the US, no third-party rule is broken even though the U.K. does not allow third-party traffic over amateur channels. Likewise, a message originating from a U.S. amateur and passed by radio to a U.S. gateway is OK even if it is addressed to the Internet address of a non-amateur in the U.K.
Users and sysops must make themselves familiar with these third-party rules for the country in which they are operating as well as linking with if they are exchanging messages with non-amateurs. US gateway sysops should know that §97.219(c) provides protection for licensees operating as part of a message forwarding system. "...the control operators of forwarding stations that retransmit inadvertently communications that violate the rules in this Part are not accountable for the violative communications. They are, however, responsible for discontinuing such communications once they become aware of their presence."
Directly or indirectly enhancing one’s pecuniary interest using amateur radio is universally prohibited. Business traffic is any message that is related to an amateur’s business or an activity involved in making money or attempting to make money for the amateur. Placing orders to trade stocks are a clear-cut example of disallowed message content. On the other hand, in the US, the FCC has opinioned that merely ordering items for personal use is not in violation of the rules so long as it is incidental to your activity as an amateur and not to enhance your pecuniary interest. Even though the Winlink user may use Telnet connection or WebMail and never transfer information over the Amateur radio spectrum, it is the policy of Winlink administrators to abide by the Part 97 (US rules) as it pertains to business related message content.
The WL2K administrators may block any unsolicited mail sources, incoming messages from list servers or any “subscription-type" messages that might contain business related traffic. The best way to avoid unsolicited mail is to keep your Winlink email address private and to learn to properly use your account whitelist.
All messages must be in plain language and use a publicly published format. Message attachments must be of file types that can be viewed with commonly available software such as .doc, .rtf, .jpg, .bmp, etc. The system will not accept as attachments executable files with extensions such as .exe, .com, .vbs, etc. This reduces the chance of an encrypted message but also is another protection against malware. Administrators may change the acceptable file types as experience dictates.
Obscene content is not allowed by the laws of most countries on amateur radio frequencies, and also not on the Winlink system. It will be deleted when discovered and the sender immediately locked out of the system whether the sender accesses the system via Internet or radio. The receiving gateway sysop usually determines if a message is obscene and usually warns the originator prior to taking any action.
If a user receives unwanted or improper messages they should advise the system administrator (address a message to ‘SYSOP@Winlink.org) and the source of those messages can be locked out. If a user (Internet or radio) persists in violating the content rules, the system administrator or one of the gateway station operators will lock the abuser out of the system.
Viruses & Malware
Every message offered to the system from any internet source is scanned for viruses and malware, and any detected threat is deleted before it can enter the system. The recipient is notified whenever an infection is detected and purged. Where possible the sender will be advised that his or her system is sending malware.
Callsign (license) Validation
Any licensee may self-register with the WL2K system by using a client program, connecting to any gateway via radio or over Telnet to a Winlink central server. When a new station appears in the system one of the WL2K gateway operators will verify the call against the appropriate country’s available amateur license database. This ensures the call is valid and that license privileges are appropriate for the frequency band used. If this information is not found or available, the user will be asked to provide documentary evidence of their identity and that their license is valid. The user will be locked out of the system if it is not supplied within a specified time. All "special temporary authority" agreements from CEPT, IARP or other special type of agreements must be sent as evidence prior to using the system, along with the location of the holder.
If a user needs to send a message with business content or finds himself in a country that does not allow third-party traffic, Winlink may still be usable. Messages can be accessed with a web browser using WebMail at the www.winlink.org web site or by using a telnet connection with any radio email client program. Either way, the message will not pass over a radio channel and not be subject to amateur rules. Commercial services must always be considered first for the appropriate use if business content will be common. Sailmail is recommended for maritime users, and there are others regionally available. Use any good internet search engine to find them.
Winlink offers an optional secure login for radio users using the Airmail or RMS Express programs. Passwords are secure and not sent over radio links. With this users may protect themselves from someone pirating their call and gaining unauthorized access to their account. This does not secure messages passed over the radio. It only authenticates that the radio link is established with a verified station.