Following Anti-Spam in D.C.

Catalogers need to keep a pulse on spam’s fate in Washington, since their legitimate e-mails are often mistaken for spam. Anti-spam bills currently on the docket in Washington include:

  • S. 877: Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (aka the Can-Spam Act of 2003). Goal in brief: to regulate interstate commerce by imposing limitations and penalties on the transmission of unsolicited commercial electronic mail via the Internet. Introduced in April 2003 by Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

    In many ways, Can-Spam “is in line with our thinking,” says Jim Conway, vice president of government relations for the Direct Marketing Association. “It requires a physical address of the sender and an opt-out.”

  • H.R. 2515: Anti-Spam Act of 2003. Goal in brief: to prevent unsolicited commercial electronic mail. Introduced in June 2003 by Heather Wilson (R-NM).

    The DMA opposes H.R. 2515 because “it would create an opt-in situation,” Conway says. “If consumers have a choice, they’ll exercise it and opt out. If it’s opt-out, people will [still be able to] get legitimate e-mail marketing materials.”

  • H.R. 1933: Restrict and Eliminate the Delivery of Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail (aka the Spam Act of 2003). Goal in brief: to reduce unsolicited commercial electronic mail and to protect children from sexually oriented advertisements. Introduced in May 2003 by Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).

    H.R. 1933, which permits a spam recipient or an ISP adversely affected by a violation of the bill to bring a civil action, would force e-mail marketers to include “ADV” in the heading for commercial e-mail ads and “ADV: ADLT” for adult-oriented e-mail ads. “We’re not supporting it,” Conway says. “It isn’t a complete answer to the problem of the proliferation of unwanted e-mail.”

  • S. 1231: Spam Act. Goal in brief: to eliminate the burdens and costs associated with electronic mail spam by prohibiting the transmission of all unsolicited commercial electronic mail to persons who place their electronic mail addresses on a national No-Spam Registry, and to prevent fraud and deception in commercial electronic mail by imposing requirements on the content of all commercial electronic mail messages. Introduced in June 2003 by Charles Schumer (D-NY).

    Many e-marketers view this bill as the most dangerous because it would create a do-not-e-mail list akin to the recently introduced do-not-call registry. Says Conway, “It runs against the very nature of the Internet as an open way to communicate.”

  • S. 1293: Criminal Spam Act of 2003. Goal in brief: to criminalize the sending of predatory and abusive e-mail. Introduced in June 2003 by Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

In addition to the federal bills on the docket, more than two dozen states have introduced anti-spam bills during the past several months. Most noteworthy among these is California S.B. 186, introduced in February by State Sen. Kevin Murray (D) and cleared by the state senate on June 2. Backed by Microsoft, Yahoo!, AOL, and the American Electronics Association, Murray’s bill would enable consumers, ISPs, and the California attorney general to sue spammers who send e-mail without the express consent of the e-mail recipients or without having a pre-existing business relationship with them.

Also significant is Michigan H.B. 4519, introduced in April 2003 by Rep. Bill Huizenga (R), which requires e-mail advertisements to be identified by “ADV:” in the message header. The bill also penalizes spam advertisers for using misleading or false information.

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