By a voice vote, the House of Representatives has given Congress' final approval to a bill outlawing several forms of junk email, or 'spam' and creating a national 'do not spam' registry, similar to the anti telemarketing 'do not call' registry.
The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 provides for fines, imprisonment, or both of any person who:
accesses a protected computer without authorization and intentionally initiates the transmission of multiple commercial electronic mail messages from or through such computer;uses a protected computer to relay or retransmit multiple messages, with the intent to deceive or mislead recipients or any Internet access service as to the origin of such messages;falsifies header information in multiple messages and intentionally initiates the transmission thereof;registers, with false identifying information, for five or more electronic mail accounts or online user accounts or two or more domain names and intentionally initiates the transmission of multiple messages from such accounts or domain names; orfalsely represents the right to use five or more Internet protocol addresses and intentionally initiates the transmission of multiple messages from such addresses.
The bill offers eight specific protections against spam including:a prohibition against false or misleading transmission informationa prohibition against deceptive subject headingsmandatory inclusion of a return address or a comparable mechanism in commercial electronic maila prohibition against transmission of spam after objection (including a prohibition against transferring or releasing an email address after an objection)mandatory inclusion in spam of information identifying the message as an advertisement or solicitation, notice of the opportunity to decline to receive further unsolicited messages from the sender, and the sender's physical addressa prohibition against initiating transmission of spam to a protected computer, or assisting in the origination of such message through the provision of addresses, if the person knows or should have known that the recipient's address was obtained from an Internet website or proprietary online service that included a notice that the operator will not provide addresses for initiating unsolicited messages
a prohibition against using automated means to register for multiple email accounts for the transmission of spam anda prohibition against relaying or retransmitting an unsolicited message that is unlawful under this section.
The bill also requires any person, when initiating commercial electronic mail containing sexually oriented material, to provide labels warning of such content.
Civil penalties for violation of the law can run up to $1 million.
Through the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), designated Federal agencies, and the States are empowered to enforce the law.
President Bush has expressed his support for the bill and is expected to sign it into law by the end of 2003.