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Magazines > Information Today > February 2004
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Information Today

Vol. 21 No. 2 — February 2004

'Can Spam' Law Needs to Be Enforced
By Dick Kaser

The Can Spam Act went into effect Jan. 1, but you wouldn't know it by the looks of my e-mail box.

The act (, signed into law by President Bush on Dec. 16, makes it illegal for e-mail marketers to disguise their identities, use misleading subject headers on their messages, and mine the Web for e-mail addresses.

It also lays out some good guidelines for legitimate companies that want and need to use the Web to promote their products and services. For example, you'll now note that marketing messages are carrying a line that lists the firm's physical mailing address. We've needed that nicety for a long time.

Legitimate messages must now include an opt-out mechanism. In addition, e-mail marketers need to comply with your request to remove yourself from future mailings within 10 days of the receipt of the request.

For those who insist on e-mailing true spam—by which I mean unsolicited ads for dubious and explicit products—onerous penalties now apply, to the tune of $250 per each e-mail message sent in violation of the law, up to a $2 million cap.

All of this is very good and very progressive, since it recognizes that spam damages the value of e-mail and drains human productivity.

Over the holidays, it seemed as if spammers had gotten the word and were taking advantage of their last opportunity to milk the Web for quick bucks. By the looks of my e-mail box, the only people who worked the last 2 weeks of the year were those participating in the American Scientist Open Access Forum discussion group and those pesky scammers who were deluging me with all kinds of trashy e-mail.

Now that the new year has started and the Can Spam Act is in effect, I've noticed that legitimate businesses have for the most part complied with the legal requirements of the act, but the spammers are still spamming as if there's no law.

Some of course live far outside the U.S.'s jurisdiction and the reach of our federal and state attorneys general, some clearly never cared about legal or moral restrictions on their commercial activities, and most are simply downright clever evaders of attempts to identify them.

It looks like it will take some muscle to back up the letter of this new law. What we need next is a major suit against one of these nefarious outfits to drive the point home that spam is now illegal.

Until then, I'll just keep holding my finger on the delete key.



Dick Kaser is Information Today, Inc.'s vice president of content. His e-mail address is
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