Powerful House Leaders Join Anti-Spam Crowd

WASHINGTON — Add the Rid Spam Act to the growing list of anti-spam bills in Congress that already includes the Can Spam Act and the Reduce Spam Act. Introduced Friday in the waning moments before Congress’ Memorial Day recess, this newest stab at curbing the rising flood of unwanted, unsolicited e-mail would allow consumers to opt-out of any commercial e-mail they choose not to receive.

The bill, introduced by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R.-La.) and House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R.-Wis.), would also require that any commercial e-mail must include identification that the message is an advertisement and must contain a valid street address for service of process.

In addition, the legislation would provide states, Internet service providers (ISPs) and federal authorities such as the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with criminal and civil remedies to enforce state computer fraud laws and general fraud laws against spammers.

“The time has come to give the American people the power to say no. No to unwanted spam and no to the endless headaches involved with the crippling congestion spam causes to computers every day throughout this country,” said Tauzin. “While e-mail has brought consumers a fast, efficient and reliable communications medium, the explosion of spam today threatens to flood the critical arteries of the networks that carry all e-mail, whether consumers want it or not.”

Sensenbrenner added, “This tough anti-spam legislation targets egregious e-mail abusers who disrupt businesses and harass individuals. Those who falsify their e-mail identity, send sexually-explicit e-mail to unsuspecting individuals, and use e-mail as a weapon will be punished severely with criminal penalties under this legislation.”

Targeting the end of June for a House vote on the Rid Spam Act, Sensenbrenner said he and Tauzin would work closely to the bill through their respective committees in the next few weeks.

He also said, as the FTC did Wednesday at a Senate anti-spam hearing, that no single piece of national legislation could stop spam, noting, “This problem only will be addressed through federal legislation in concert with technical solutions and the efforts of ISPs and legitimate marketers. I urge consumers to take advantage of software that blocks spam.”

The Tauzin-Sensenbrenner bill will be competing with legislation already introduced in the Senate by Conrad Burns (R.-Mont.) and Ron Wyden (D.-Ore) known as the Can Spam Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act), which calls for unsolicited e-mail marketing messages to have a valid return address. The legislation would also mandate e-mail marketers be required to remove customers from their mailing lists if requested.

The bill gives more legal ammunition for ISPs to take spammers to court, allows the FTC to impose fines, and gives state attorneys general the power to bring lawsuits.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is also promising to introduce legislation to create a national “do-not-spam” registry under the FTC’s auspices and would also force Internet advertisers to put an ADV tag in the subject line of any unsolicited piece of e-mail. Burns and Wyden’s bill contains no subject line labeling requirement.

In addition, Silicon Valley Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D.-Calif.) has prepared a bill called the Reduce Spam Act (Restrict and Eliminate Delivery of Unsolicited Commercial E-mail). The legislation would create a bounty for the first person who reports a particular spammer and establishes criminal penalties for fraudulent spam. Lofgen also wants unsolicited e-mail to have labeled subject lines, such as ADV (advertising).

Tauzin and Sensenbrenner’s powerful committee chairmanships in the Republican controlled House would seem to favor their legislation over the other proposed bills by Burns-Wyden and Lofgren.

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