The CAN-SPAM Act can seem confusing. What are the keys a marketer needs to know about compliance?

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Answer: The actual CAN-SPAM Act looks daunting and confusing. But when you boil it down, CAN-SPAM really is the bare minimum best practices that any responsible e-mail marketer should be doing anyway.

CAN-SPAM requires that you clearly identify yourself. Misrepresenting who you are by using a deceptive “from” address is a clear violation. Deceptive subject lines also cross the line.

The unsubscribe process is critical. Remove people from the list when they ask you to.

You also need to provide a valid postal address.

The CAN-SPAM Act also includes specific rules that are less likely to be violated by legitimate marketers. These include not harvesting e-mail addresses or setting up “dictionary attacks”—creating a relay to send mass e-mails through someone else’s network or system—or falsifying header information. There also are rules related to the sending of sexually explicit material.

Even more important than complying with CAN-SPAM is not being perceived as a spammer. You can do everything according to the law and still be considered a spammer by the recipient. When people think you are spamming them, they are likely to report you to their ISP, which leads to blocking, filtering and possible legal trouble. A good way to judge your complaints is to count the number of e-mails and phone calls you receive regarding an alleged spam, and then multiply that number by a hundred. It is considerably easier for recipients to click the “Report as Spam” button than to actually contact you. Reducing the number of complaints you get will decrease your chances of getting into trouble.

Jordan Ayan is the founder and CEO of SubscriberMail (, a provider of e-mail marketing services and technology.

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