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.
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
CAN-SPAM Information Across the Web
CAUCE (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 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: 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.2004: The rulemaking introduces rules to further clarify what constitutes a commercial 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.) ««»»
Spam 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, 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 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 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. ««»»
History 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. ««»»
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