November 26, 2003, 12:00 AM

Senate passes Can Spam Act with provision for a no-spam registry

The U.S. Senate voted yesterday to enact the Can Spam Act, which imposes penalties of up to five years in prison for senders of unsolicited commercial e-mail. A provision also requires the Federal Trade Commission to devise a national “no-spam” registry.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

The U.S. Senate voted yesterday to enact the Can Spam Act, which imposes penalties of up to five years in prison for repeat senders of unsolicited commercial e-mail. A provision also requires the Federal Trade Commission to devise a national “no-spam” registry of consumers opposed to receiving spam.

The Senate passed the bill by a voice vote following a 395-2 vote in the House of Representatives on Nov. 22. Supporters expect President Bush to sign the legislation before the year’s end.

The Direct Marketing Association and other business groups support the legislation, contending that it will provide consistency by overriding some 37 state anti-spam laws that differ in the ways they regulate spam. The federal legislation would prohibit senders of unsolicited commercial e-mail from using misleading information in e-mail “from” columns and subject headings, and would require commercial e-mail to provide a mechanism to let consumers opt-out of receiving further e-mail. The legislation also prohibits e-mail senders from gathering e-mail addresses from web sites.

Some critics say the bill doesn’t go far enough, and that it should follow measures included in a California anti-spam law. The California law requires senders of commercial e-mail to get consumers’ permission before sending marketing offers; the federal legislation only requires senders to let recipients opt out of getting messages.

The DMA and others, however, oppose a provision in the Senate version of the Can Spam Act that calls on the FTC to create a no-spam registry within six months. The provision, submitted by Sen. Charles Schumer (D., NY), also authorizes the FTC to implement a registry plan within nine months. The no-spam registry is expected to operate like the FTC’s “Do Not Call” registry that lets consumers block telemarketing calls and subjects telemarketers to fines if they call consumers listed in the registry.

 

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