House of Representatives Has Yet to Act


Includes 5-Year Prison Term for 'Predatory' E-mail Marketing

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WASHINGTON ( -- The U.S. Senate tonight unanimously approved anti-spam legislation after adding language that could make the bill more of a
The Senate legislation includes prison terms of up to five years for 'predatory and abusive' commercial spammers.
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problem for marketers. Three senators weren't present for the vote.

The additional language, added at the urging of Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., asks the Federal Trade Commission to develop a proposal for a "do not spam" list within six months of the bill's signing or explain why it can't. "Spam" refers to unsolicited bulk e-mail.

House has yet to act
Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives continue to wrangle over anti-spam proposals and have yet to craft a final bill. Observers noted that this evening's Senate vote may spur the House to act on the matter.

The final version of the Senate bill, however, is far less dramatic than an earlier proposal from Sen. Schumer that would have set up the list. The bill now allows the FTC, which has recommended against a do-not-spam list and questioned its effectiveness, to determine whether a list is practical and decide virtually all the technical questions on how to implement it.

Sen. Schumer said companies sending e-mail would have to provide their lists to the FTC so they could be checked and the coverage would be far broader than the FTC's telemarketer "do not call" list, which only covers sales calls to consumers. The spam-blocking list would also cover business-to-business e-mails and companies could put their entire domain on the registry, he said.

'Spam is out of control'
"Spam is out of control," Se. Schumer said. "This is not a perfect solution, but it is better than what we have now."

The legislation still supercedes state anti-spam laws, including California's recently passed law that takes effect in January, and which some marketing groups have warned could have dire effects on Internet commerce.

The Direct Marketing Association said tonight it still supports the legislation but questioned the need for a spam-blocking list, saying spammers who now violate the law would be unlikely to abide by the list, anyway. The trade group also expressed concern that the result would be increased costs to buy and regularly update lists, yet little effect on the amount of spam messages.

5-year jail term
The other parts of the legislation co-sponsored by Sens. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., are more in keeping with new advertising industry standards. Phony "from" e-mail addresses would be banned, physical addresses would have to be provided and opt outs would have to be provided and have to work. In addition, the legislation adds new penalties including up to a five-year jail term for "predatory and abusive commercial e-mail marketing."

The Senate vote came as a number of senators complained about the impact of spam and especially the impact of sexually explicit spam coming to children.

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