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CAN-SPAM - - - Two cans and string making a can telephone - - - Original photo copyright Dan Fletcher - - - Licensed through iStockphoto.com
CAN-SPAM Is Stupid

This article is a personal rant about the U. S. federal law known as known as CAN-SPAM. While it is supposedly designed to help eliminate email spam, I think the law is stupid.


Permit me a rant about how we write bad laws, particularly in the area of technology.

The U. S. federal law known as known as CAN-SPAM became effective 01.Jan.2004. This law is so very badly written, it makes most spam legal while threatening to make your email illegal. Many jokingly call it the I-CAN-SPAM act.

Spammers won't have a problem complying with the law. Spamhaus.org says the act should be called the You-Can-Spam-Act and Wired.com titled its article as "With this law, you can spam".

Few anti-spam organizations think it is a good law, and most believe it is a bad law. For example, Spamhaus called it , "a serious failure of the United States government to understand the Spam problem".  And CAUCE (the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email) wrote that the legislation "fails the most fundamental test of any anti-spam law, in that it neglects to actually tell any marketers not to spam."

Not only that, but the law not only applies to bulk email, it also applies to a single emails. Many anti-spam organizations clearly require email to be bulk in order to be spam. For example, see the Spamhaus definition.  Also see the Monkeys.com definition.

But as this article notes, with CAN-SPAM, if you send even one commercial email you could violate the law as a "spammer" and be fined. That seems like a bit of overkill.

Do you know what "commercial email" is? Do you know that when you write your Sunday school class to tell them your daughter is selling Girl Scout cookies, you can be found guilty of violating the law and be subject to $250 fines for each person you sent it to.

But, there is a simple way to avoid that liability --- just stick in three "clear and conspicuous" notices. If you include these three notices, the CAN-SPAM Act says your spam is legal. CAN-SPAM doesn't stop spam, it just provides a way for spammers to do it legally.


CAN-SPAM Information On My Site

Why CAN-SPAM NoticesWhy CAN-SPAM Notices: Why I include CAN-SPAM notices in my ezine mailings, even though they aren't commercial emails and they aren't required.


CAN-SPAM Information Across the Web

The CAN-SPAM LawThe CAN-SPAM Law 

Busted: Big Time Spammer Shut Down By CAN-SPAMBusted: Big Time Spammer Shut Down By CAN-SPAM: CAN-SPAM has only been used against a very few. Here is one.. 

CAUCE (Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email) Position on CAN-SPAM Act of 2003CAUCE (Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email) Position on CAN-SPAM Act of 2003: An explanation of the organization's opposition to the act. CAUCE notes that the legislation "fails the most fundamental test of any anti-spam law, in that it neglects to actually tell any marketers not to spam."

Don't Let a Spoofer Ruin Your Good NameDon't Let a Spoofer Ruin Your Good Name: An interesting article about how you can register a trademark for your domain name and then use trademark law to sue spammers who spoof your name. It won't let you go after spammers who flood your mailbox, but for commercial interests it is an interesting (but apparently unproven) tactic. 

FTC: Spam Home PageFTC: Spam Home Page 

FTC: The CAN-SPAM Act: Requirements for Commercial EmailersFTC: The CAN-SPAM Act: Requirements for Commercial Emailers: A simple document outlining business requirement under the CAN-SPAM Act. 

FTC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking re CAN-SPAM, 13.Aug.2004FTC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking re CAN-SPAM, 13.Aug.2004: The rulemaking introduces rules to further clarify what constitutes a commercial message. 

FTC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking re CAN-SPAM, 13.Aug.2004 (alternate)FTC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking re CAN-SPAM, 13.Aug.2004 (alternate): An alternate source of the same information. This format may be easier to read and excerpt. 

FTC Final Rule on What Constitutes a "Commercial Electronic Mail Message"FTC Final Rule on What Constitutes a "Commercial electronic Mail Message": The rulemaking begun 13.Aug.2004 was completed 16.Dec.2004. The rules, it turns out, are pretty simple. (The rules were slightly modified on 12.Jan.2005, by delaying the effective date of one provision.)

FTC Press Release on Final Rule on What Constitutes a "Commercial Electronic Mail Message"FTC Press Release on Final Rule on What Constitutes a "Commercial electronic Mail Message" 

Gigalaw CAN-SPAM LibraryGigalaw CAN-SPAM Library: An excellent resource of CAN-SPAM information. 

Is It Time for a Federal Spam LawIs It Time for a Federal Spam Law: This article by Bill McComas and Phil Bogart explains why the law needs to target "bulk" email and not just "unsolicited" email.

Monkeys.com Definition of SpamMonkeys.com Definition of Spam: The definition notes that a "duplication" of messages is a requirement. 

Politicians Get to Spam YouPoliticians Get to Spam You: When the politicians wrote the CAN-SPAM act, they made sure it didn't apply to them. 

Spam is Born in the USASpam is Born in the USA: First, 86% of all spam comes from the USA. Second, spammers have found a gaping hole in the CAN-SPAM law. Yes, they are letting you unsubscribe ... but they are making you do it through the U. S. Mail. 

Spamhaus: United States set to Legalize Spamming on January 1, 2004Spamhaus: United States set to Legalize Spamming on January 1, 2004: The article explains how the CAN-SPAM act ought to be called the You-Can-Spam-Act. 

Spamhaus Position on CAN-SPAM Act of 2003Spamhaus Position on CAN-SPAM Act of 2003: A detailed explanation of the organization's opposition to the act. Spamhaus called it , "a serious failure of the United States government to understand the Spam problem". 

Spamhaus Definition of SpamSpamhaus Definition of Spam: The definition notes that "bulk" is a requirement. 

Wired.com: With This Law, You Can SpamWired.com: With This Law, You Can Spam: The article explains how the CAN-SPAM act really makes spam legal. 

Spamhaus Register of Known Spam Operations (ROKSO)Spamhaus Register of Known Spam Operations (ROKSO): This database lists the top 200 or so known spammers who are estimated to be responsible for 90% of spam. 


My ezine/Newsletter

All About Snippets, My EzineAll About Snippets, My Free Ezine: This page tells about my free ezine (newsletter), where it came from, how to subscribe . . . the whole banana.

Previous Issues of SnippetsPrevious Issues of Snippets: This page links to the archive of Snippets issues.

History of Changes to SnippetsHistory of Changes to Snippets: Describes the history of Snippets, with emphasis on the technical changes I've made since starting it, including moving to  Gammadyne, adding double-opt-in and complying with CAN-SPAM.

Snippets Privacy PolicySnippets Privacy Policy: The short version of my privacy policy for my Snippets ezine. It explains that I do not spam. Period. And, I do not sell, lend or release your subscription information to anyone for any reason. 

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This page created:
Sun, 11.Jul.2004

Last updated:
16:21, Sat, 10.May.2014

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