Indiana Spam Bill Passes Legislature

Indiana’s House of Representatives voted 90-0 to pass a bill with a number of anti-spam measures, including a provision to penalize senders up to $500 per piece of unsolicited e-mail. The bill now goes to Gov. Frank O’Bannon for final approval.

House Bill 1083, introduced by Evansville Democrat Rep. Jonathan Weinzapfel, requires a sender to specify in the subject line if an e-mail is commercial, using “ADV” for commercial mail or “ADV:ADLT” for porn or credit offers. The bill forbids e-mail senders from obscuring the origin of the e-mail or using a third-party domain name without permission. It requires bulk e-mailers include an unsubscribe option.

Under the bill, if the messages continue to arrive after an e-mail user requested they cease, the user, and the Internet service provider handling the e-mails, have the right to sue for up to $500 per unsolicited message under the state’s deceptive consumer sales laws. The bill provides defendants with an acceptable defense that the messages were sent by mistake.

“E-mail is now a common means of communication for people, and it certainly makes sense that more businesses would use this method as a way to find new customers,” Weinzapfel said. “House Bill 1083 is not aimed at any person or company that legitimately uses e-mail to conduct its business in an above-board manner. It is aimed at those who attempt to deceive the public about their intentions.”

The bill mirrors a similar piece of legislation that recently passed a key committee in California’s Senate. That bill, too, puts $500 of liability on e-mail senders for each piece of spam.

With one poll showing nearly three in four people favor legal remedies to the spam problem, 29 states in the country have at least initiated some kind of anti-spam legislation, according to

In a tactical shift, e-mail marketers have stopped trying to stop any and all spam legislation. The executive director of the Network Advertising Initiative’s E-mail Service Providers coalition recently said its members would support federal efforts, fearing the costly situation of having to comply with myriad state laws. The Direct Marketing Association has also endorsed a federal approach.

The debate will be front and center later this month when the Federal Trade Commission convenes a symposium on the spam problem.

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