March 3, 2004, 12:00 AM

CAN-Spam designed to catch marketers, not just spam services, experts warn

Merchants beware: The CAN-Spam Act isn’t only for catching and penalizing spammers. It’s also designed to follow the money to catch marketers who use outside e-mail senders who engage in spam tactics.

Merchants beware: The CAN-Spam Act isn’t only for catching and penalizing spammers. It’s also designed to follow the money to catch marketers who use outside e-mail senders who engage in spam tactics.

Experts say the law’s provision for going after organizations affiliated with spammers is recognition of the fact that tracing only the spammer itself can be difficult. But while spammers are known to hide their home network servers by routing their messages through a series of servers, identifying and finding the source of the spammed marketing message itself can be easier and a more effective means of enforcement.

“It’s easier to follow the money than the transmission path of e-mail messages,” says David Rubin, a Washington, D.C., lawyer specializing in laws related to marketing and advertising. “Affiliate merchants can be liable for any CAN-Spam violations committed by spammers.”

Among the laws’ requirements are that marketers provide an opt-out link and a home-office postal address within each e-mail message. The law provides for penalties of up to $250 per e-mail spam, with a cap of $2 million that can be tripled for aggravated violations.

But there is no cap for e-mails determined to be sent with deceptive or false “from” or “subject” headers.

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