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Committee Approves Spam Bill

The Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection Thursday approved the Unsolicited Electronic Mail Act of 1999.

Dubbed the "Can Spam Act," it's an effort to end the problem of unsolicited commercial e-mail. The bipartisan bill was introduced to the House in October.

Specifically, the bill would require accurate return addresses on unsolicited commercial e-mail and makes it illegal to continue spamming someone after they have requested to be removed from a distribution list.

The bill requires that Internet service providers protect their customers from spam if the ISP profits from allowing spam into their system. ISPs also have the right to sue spammers for $500 per message if they violate the carriers acceptable use policy.

The bill also makes harvesting e-mail address from Internet registrars illegal. Although the specifics remain difficult to prove, the Federal Trade Commission is authorized to pursue spammers who violate this law.

One of the bill's sponsors, Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM), said ISPs are charged with the authority to help eliminate the growing unsolicited commercial e-mail

"Internet service providers who now bear the cost of unwanted spam as advertising costs are shifted from the advertiser to the service provider." Wilson said. "I look forward to working with Congressman Miller and Congressman Green to ensure that this important piece of legislation is enacted into law."

Congressman Gary Miller (R-CA) said Congress is committed to fighting for the rights of consumers and ISPs against those who abuse the Internet for their own financial gain.

Congressman Gene Green (D-TX) added that Internet users have to spend both time and money to sort out and delete unsolicited messages.

"This legislation weeds out fraudulent spam and eliminates hassles for Internet users," Green said. "By combining our efforts, we can ensure that consumers are able to benefit from the Internet without any financial or technical burden."

The "Can Spam Act" is a compromise piece of legislation that combines Rep. Wilson's consumer protection provisions with Rep. Miller's allowances for ISPs to protect their property and customers in court. Coupled with Rep. Green's provision to prohibit the use of false e-mail addresses and false routing information creates comprehensive protection against those who abuse the Internet by shifting their costs onto e-mail recipients.

The committee-approved bill must move through the full Commerce Committee and the House of Representatives before it could become law.

Rep. Mill expects support for the bill throughout the entire process.

"We now have momentum behind a sound approach to controlling the unsolicited commercial e-mail problem," Miller said.

Opt-in e-mail advertiser ChooseYourMail.com is among the firms that worked closely with Congressman Miller over the past year to develop the "Can Spam Act."

"Spam is not just an annoyance but a real problem that costs consumers and ISPs real money," said CYM President Ian D. Oxman said. "I am glad to see the Congress is moving forward with a reasonable anti-spam bill. Without this type of legislation, the future of ethical e-mail advertising is at risk."