Bush signs bill laying down `rules of road' for spamming

December 17, 2003|By NEWSDAY

Despite grumbling from anti-spam hard-liners, President Bush yesterday signed the Can-Spam Act into law, laying down what the administration called the first national "rules of the road" for the junk-mail-clogged information superhighway.

The bill, which takes effect Jan. 1, requires that companies sending bulk commercial e-mail provide a means for recipients to opt-out of receiving it, clearly label pornographic spam and supply valid sender information so messages can be traced.

It provides for stiff fines, including jail time for those who falsify sender information and improperly send pornographic e-mail, levies civil fines of up to $2 million and authorizes the exploration of a national do-not-spam list. The measure also targets wireless e-mail spam and the practice of hijacking computers to send spam.

Opponents say it doesn't go far enough. They worry that it could unleash a wave of legitimate e-mail from companies that formerly avoided bulk e-mail for fear of being labeled spammers. They also sharply criticize a provision that invalidates several state laws that were perceived as considerably stronger, including a California law that barred companies from sending bulk e-mail unless they first received recipients' permission.

With the passage of the law, "opting out of spammers' lists will very likely become the main daytime activity for most U.S. e-mail users in 2004," the anti-spam organization Spamhaus said on its Web site yesterday. "The second main activity will be sorting through mailboxes crammed with `legal' spam every few minutes to see if there's any e-mail amongst the spam."

The Bush administration, acknowledging that the federal law alone won't stop spam, said it provides a "well-balanced approach that will help to address some of the harmful impacts of spam."

House sponsor Rep. Billy Tauzin, a Louisiana Republican, said it will "bring peace of mind back to everyone who sends and receives e-mail."

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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