American Anti-Spam Legislation (CAN-SPAM Act of 2003)


American Anti-Spam Legislation (CAN-SPAM Act of 2003)

The tremendous flow of spam spreading all over the Internet forces governments of many countries to take strong measures against this web-plague. Recently, some countries have introduced strong anti-spam laws and often in the mass media you can find reports on cases against spammers with quite heavy sentences. The leading country in the anti-spam struggle is the United States of America because at the same time, the USA is the main source of spam in the world.

In November 2003 the USA Congress passed the federal law officially called Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM). This law overruled the existing states anti-spam laws that severely restricted the spam activity and provided for the heavy punishments for spammers. As a result, there was no criminal responsibility for any bulk advertising as it had been before, e.g. in California. The new federal law applied quite light restrictions on spamming.

After the long debates the Congress disposed of the principle "opt-in" that assumed the necessary permission of the receiver to include his/her address in mailing-lists. Instead, the "opt-out" principle was introduced meaning that no permission is necessary to include an address in a mailing-list but the receiver has to be able to unsubscribe from the mailing-list any time.

For the following crimes the CAN-SPAM law provides for the imprisonment or heavy fines:

  • Falsification of e-mail headings and using mail or proxy servers for misleading receivers about the source of a commercial message;
  • Registration of more than 5 e-mail accounts or more than 2 domain names for sending commercial messages;
  • Sending commercial messages without a valid return address or a link to a web-page where it is possible to unsubscribe from the mailing-list;
  • Collecting e-mail addresses by scanning web-sites or by automatic search methods;
  • Using automatic methods for registration of multiple free e-mail accounts;
  • Sending commercial messages with adult content without prior permission of the receiver;

However, most of the prison sentences in the USA have been passed for spamming activity related to fraud, hacking or unauthorized collecting of private information, passwords, access codes and so on. For example, Daniel from Detroit was imprisoned for 2 years for spamming related to hacking activities and selling fake dietetic products. Jason Harris spent 21 months in jail for fraud with the use of spam. Apparently, now in the XXI century spammers do not want to take lessons from the XX century when two fraudsters Steve Shklovskiy and Jan Shtok were sentenced for 2-year imprisonment. They send about 50 million e-mails with a job offer asking 35$ for the detailed information about the vacancy but instead of millions they got to jail.

Meanwhile, more and more often CAN-SPAM is criticized in the USA for its liberality. In today's version the law appears ineffective and needs to be revised in order to apply stronger restrictions on spam activity and to introduce more severe punishments for related crimes. The CAN-SPAM critics insist that without a heavier legislation it is impossible to stop the growing spam flow that is threatening to paralyze the Internet.

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About the Author: Mike Grunch, Tech Writer at LuxContinent.
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