The US Senate has approved a bill regulating unsolicited commercial e-mail and allowing fines as large as $3m for some types of illegal spam.
The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (Can-Spam) Act went through after a compromise among members of the Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee allowed an amendment authorising a federal agency to launch a national do-not-spam registry.
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Can-Spam would require commercial e-mail to include valid opt-out mechanisms and allows fines of up to $100 per piece of spam sent with misleading header information.
Some critics say the bill's provisions - which require consumers to opt out of unsolicited e-mail instead of opting in to commercial e-mail - make it a pro-spam, not an antispam bill.
Can-Spam would require the US Federal Trade Commission to deliver to Congress a plan to create a national do-not-spam registry within six months and authorise the FTC to launch it within nine months of the bill's passage. The bill just approved by the Senate would have to be approved by the US House and signed by President Bush before the FTC were to start its no-spam registry.
No antispam bill has yet been approved by a committee in the US House, as members continue to debate the merits of two bills introduced there.
Some FTC officials have questioned the effectiveness of a do-not-spam list, although they help administer the do-not-call list, in part because of the frequency with which many e-mail users change or add e-mail addresses.
Can-Spam allows maximum penalties of $3m for some types of spam. The bill allows fines for e-mail sent with misleading header information, deceptive subject headings or no functioning return address. Can-Spam also requires that unsolicited messages include valid physical postal addresses and clear notification that the message is an advertisement.
Additional criminal provisions for some common spamming practices could carry up up to five years in prison. These include:
- Hacking into someone else's computer to send spam
- Using open relays to send bulk spam with an intent to deceive
- Falsifying header information in bulk spam
- Registering for five or more e-mail accounts using false registration information, and using these accounts to send bulk spam.
Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service