Quick Summary

Effective January 1, 2004, is the federal Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003, known as the "CAN-SPAM" Act. In short, the Act is a license to spam and is likely to only cause an increase in the amount of spam.

Law Review

The Act creates new penalties for sending deceptive spam advertising - which is already illegal.

The Act allows every spammer in the world to send every Internet user at least one message. The Act also supercedes state laws, thereby eliminating stronger protections against spam in many states, including individual rights of action against spammers, and a California opt-in spam law which would have taken effect on January 1.

Spam must include notice that the message is an advertisement or solicitation, an opt-out notice, and a valid postal address of the sender. If the recipient opts out of the spam, the sender has ten days to stop spamming. Address harvesting and dictionary attacks are illegal under the Act, but these practices are considered aggravating offenses, and they cannot serve as the sole basis of prosecution of a spammer.

The Act prohibits falsification of transmission information and deceptive subject headings. The Act creates criminal prohibitions against those who knowingly transmit spam through others' computers without authorization. Also, the FTC may pursue individuals who knowingly hire others to send deceptive spam.

Spam containing sexually oriented material must be labeled with a notice that will be developed by the FTC and the Attorney General within six months.

The Act gives the FTC the authority to create a do-not-spam registry - also known as - here is a list of email addresses to spam.

Enforcement of the Act is limited to the FTC, state attorneys general, and Internet Service Providers. Individuals generally cannot sue.

More Information is Available with a Premium Subscription

  • Text of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003

  • Letter by National Association of Attorney General's critiquing problems with the law

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