RealTime IT News

House Moves to Ban Spam

A legislative initiative to stem the flow of spam resoundingly passed the U.S. House of Representatives late Tuesday.

The Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail Act of 2000 was approved by a 427-1 vote.

The nation's lawmakers are attempting to take a bite out of spam. If signed into law, H.R. 3113 would allow Internet service providers and consumers to sue spammers for up to $150,000.

The potential law requires that ISPs post a spam policy, which operates as a guideline for commercial e-mailers. It also requires the use of accurate headers in an e-mail message.

In line with the "opt-out" standard of legitimate e-mail marketing, individuals must be provided with an option for unsubscribing from future mailings.

Rep. Heather Wilson, co-sponsor of the bill, said the legislation would help ISPs and consumers save time and money.

"Millions of unsolicited commercial e-mails, which contain advertisements for legitimate products as well as pornography, dubious products, or get-rich-quick schemes, clog up individuals' computer systems and the entire information superhighway," Wilson said.

"The problem with spam is that the receiver pays for e-mail advertisements. Junk e-mail is like 'postage due' marketing or telemarketers calling collect," Wilson added. "Spam costs consumers and ISPs money and time."

Industry groups like CAUCE and ORBS support the bill designed to protect consumers and ISPs alike from the flood of spam.

CAUCE representatives said HR 3113 represents a carefully crafted approach that balances the needs of ISPs, consumers, and marketers.

    The bill provisions include:
  • ISPs may establish spam policies, including zero-tolerance for unsolicited e-mail, so long as it's properly published senders must obey the operating guidelines
  • ISPs and recipients of e-mail sent in violation can sue for $500 per spam up to $150,000, much like recipients of junk faxes
  • The FTC can cite and fine violators.
  • Commercial e-mail must have a working return address that stops an e-mail post to individuals
  • Forged headers on commercial e-mail are illegal
  • Senders of commercial e-mail must stop when you tell them to

The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate where it has to be reconciled with S.2542 and other anti-spam bills introduced earlier this session. CAUCE representatives said none of the Senate bills has all of the desirable features of HR 3113, so there remains plenty of work to do in order to reconcile the legislative initiatives.

Ian Oxman, ChooseYourMail.com president and Spam Recycling Center co-founder, said both firms would continue to advocate the bill in the Senate.

"With the proliferation of spam, millions of e-mail users are being forced to pay the cost of delivery for porno ads, web scams and computer viruses," Oxman said. "That is why we have aggressively advocated responsible federal anti-spam legislation.

"I am pleased to hear that the House has passed HR 3113, the Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail Act of 2000," Oxman added. "But today is just one battle in the war against spam. We must now turn our attention to the Senate and push for quick action."

Oxman said that if the bill works, it could help spur legitimate e-commerce initiatives on the Internet.

"As an e-mail marketer I know that spam is bad for business, bad for consumers and bad for the growth of e-commerce. It is clogging the e-mail channel, damaging the ability of legitimate companies to communicate with their customers," Oxman said. "If passed into law, H.R. 3113 will help turn the tide against spam and help support the g