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National Anti-Spam Bill Becomes Law

setting jail time & multimillion dollar fines for violators

     
5:54 pm on Dec 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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7:47 pm on Dec 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Its about time!
8:59 pm on Dec 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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It'll be interesting to see how this gets enforced. I'm happy about some sort of regulation on this.
9:07 pm on Dec 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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The problem is that many states have tougher bills than this. Now, there is the problem with jurisdiction and state enforcement of some of these laws. But what many think is that if you don't lie in the email (i.e. forge your mx info and label the subject line with adv: ) then you'll be able to spam all day long - legally.

The fact that some states currently have laws where you can file a civil lawsuit against a spammer, and this law makes it so you can't file such a lawsuit, you're cutting off a lot of responsibility.

So now if someone sends 1 million emails to a server, and crashes the server, the server can't file a civil lawsuit for spamming them and putting them out of business while they fix the problems (at least that's the initial interpertation a law prof told me).

And if you really want to spam, just set up the isp in another country where the laws don't apply - how many people have blocked sections of the world from sending them email or visiting their site?

9:39 pm on Dec 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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This bill was heavily influenced by the Direct Marketing Association and other businesses to allow what they call "legitimate e-mail" that is really spam. They want to allow anyone who wants to sell you something to send out millions of e-mails as long as the subject line is not a lie and the heading information is not forged. Under this law the spammers can clean up their act and still spam. And with removal of the threat of state action, they spam will probably increase.

Congress went against many of us who wanted to simply make spam (even with correct subject lines) illegal.

As for off shore spam, they should make it illegal to do business with spammers after notification that a particular business is a spammer. So an investigator would just have to buy a body part enhancement pill, pay for it by credit card, provide the credit card company with the ticket information, and the credit card company would no longer be able to process information from that merchant. That would stop the flow of money, and it is money that drives the spam.

Also items ordered through spammers is often sent by FedEx or other carriers to avoid using the US Mail (and mail fraud laws). If the private package service was notified that a particular sender was a spammer, they would have to stop doing business with them or face criminal penalities.

All this would take additional laws, but Congress is too heavily lobbied by business interest who want to preserve the ability to use spam.

There should also be the ability for individuals who identify spammers to collect a portion of the fees or to sue. This would have an incentive for many people to track down spammers and bring them to justice.

John

9:41 pm on Dec 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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This law was made to legitimize spam. Companies that have been fined [1010wins.com] for repeated and willful violations of privacy, such as Yahoo, are applauding the law [home.businesswire.com].

So what does that tell you when the fox applauds new measures designed to protect the henhouse?

10:32 pm on Dec 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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And remember, that Europe also has new anti-spam laws coming into effect:

[news.bbc.co.uk...]

11:24 pm on Dec 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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British communications minister said that offending firms could be fined up to £5,000 in a magistrate’s court or an unlimited amount if the trial is before a jury.

problem is identifying/locating/catching spammmmmers

2:54 am on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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It's good to see that the problem is starting to be addressed (no pun intended..)

It's a start, and a step in the right direction..

3:56 am on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Business as usual then! Spammers will just use offshore havens until these can be closed up.
4:23 am on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Well, just be thankful that the CA law is now overriden. Under that law, what if a hungry plaintiff's attorney argued that your link requests are spam, and sued you for $1M?

Roadrunner shut off our account for 10 days (they claim they warned us) simply because we send around 20 MANUAL emails per day asking for links, and someone reported one as spam.

That's not spam, we argued, but they said it's unsolicited commercial email, which is their rather simple definition of spam. The fact that we weren't offering something for sale didn't matter to them.

My point is, be careful what you wish for regarding spam laws. What if you've got a domain you want to sell, and email some specific companies that you think might be interested? Unsolicited commercial email?

The real solution should be a techological, not legal, solution. For example, a version of bonded email, e.g. as discussed here:
[techtv.com...]

We need an elegant technological/market solution, in the spirit of the internet, not one invented in DC that employs more plaintiffs attorneys.

5:44 am on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Well Alpine, it seems to me that if you sent the email requesting a link to someone who has never heard from you then it WAS an unsolicited commercial email. Manual, automated, bulk...doesn't matter how it was sent, the important term here is UNSOLICITED.

Regarding the bonded email approach, I don't really consider that a technological solution. It looks like it's just a subscription service version of current technology that allows for the use of white lists in administering email. It also doesn't guarantee zero unwanted email. If it did why would you need the ability to report unwanted email? And one more question, why should I as a business owner have to pay for one more service just to minimize the amount of unsolicited email I receive?

If everyone was going to follow the rules then the new law would probably be fine. But we all know the spammers don't care about the rules. I think the CA law was harsh, but necessary and I for one am sorry to see it overridden.

7:23 am on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>It's a technological problem, it needs a technological solution.

The solution is simple. Enlighten all that "Buying a product/service thru UCE/SPAM is the only reason it proliferates".

Any counter-measures involving anything (law or otherwise) other than directly educating the consumer who make those purchases will merely result in overlapping juridictional hassles (among various other discombOObulations) thus allowing the UCE/SPAMer time to circumvent whatever was just put in place to thwart him/her/them.

Then, next year (or slightly beyond) the technological side will anti up some new cutting edge software (while the law makers make 'ammendments' to current legislation) and the UCE/SPAMers will have all the incentive they need (more new buyers dontcha know) to reverse-engineer the new technology and the cycle will drone endlessly on and on and on.

Ten, twenty years from now, those who remain will be kicking themselves in their collective posteriors for allowing this scourge to have gotten as far as it has.

Oh. Kudos to AOL's subscribers. I read they're quite responsible for nailing (what AOL considers to be) the Number Seventh ranked UCE/SPAMer in the United States and bringing him to trial...just by using a button.

Buttons are good when you have the numbers of people reporting in a closed type system such as theirs.

Legislations will work for awhile.

Software will be hacked.

Educate the public and the volume of UCE/SPAM will plummet.

Pendanticist.

10:55 am on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Channel 4 news in the UK did a review of the new EU spam law coming into effect, and the first criticism was that only 10 individuals will be dealing with the SPAM issue, and the second is only spam originating in the UK, can be taken into account by the law, hence the hundred or so major spammers in the U.S. will not get touched by the law coming into place!

Basically the EU law is a joke.

11:07 am on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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This will simply drive the spammers offshore, as others have already suggested.

Soon you'll be receiving spam emails about ordering an email blast from servers in Indonesia.

Spam traffic will further explode as every kid on the street learns he/she can spam the world via a third-world server for a day's allowance.

The best way to stop spam is find a way to charge email senders a penny per email. If they don't pay, the email doesn't get delivered. Let the government collect the pennies to pay for the program, then privatize the program later.

Spammers will whine, for sure, but I'll be delighted to pay even a nickle per email that I send if the spam will stop.

11:38 am on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Has anyone seen an actual reduction in spam in the UK? Can't say I have, but it may take time. BTW, it's still legal to spam businesses as far as I can make out :( - it is private individuals who are mainly protected.
4:25 pm on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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The best way to stop spam is find a way to charge email senders a penny per email. If they don't pay, the email doesn't get delivered. Let the government collect the pennies to pay for the program, then privatize the program later.

I disagree with this for several reasons. First, it would be the death of the free info newsletter. I have, and know many others, that have complete free (and advertisement) free newsletters with over 10k subscribers - no way they are going to pay $100/month for this.

It will also hurt non profit companies, and I can see the affiliates who run legitimate advertisement newsletters taking a severe profit hit from that.

What about kids that just use email for fun?

I'm already paying for the bandwidth for emails - why should I double pay for email?

If all the spammers are forced into a few countries, then it'll be easier to block emails from that country, thus drastically reducing spam until that country makes some spamming laws so emails from the country can be sent to everyone.

4:54 pm on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Ewhisper: That's why the bonded method appeals to me: you don't pay unless people say "I didn't want this--it's spam", which would put spammers out of business if a million people each collected the penny bond every day.

Scenario: I check my email in the morning, find 100 spam emails, highlight them, and collect $1. A million other people do the same thing, and soon, you only have email that is on topic. It's like direct marketing: how many catalogs do you think would be in your mailbox each day if they were close to free to send out? Yes, the catalog industry should be allowed to prospect to find new buyers, but the fact that there's a cost to it makes them find targeted prospects. The market limits the number of catalogs you see, not a federal law.

And it would be voluntary; I can choose not to participate. I can choose to say that I'll only accept bonded email. Or non-bonded email goes off to a separate folder. Maybe later I can set the threshold of bond that I will accept.

I see it as kind of like the fax machine; critical mass would be needed to get it off the ground.

There are details to be worked out, but I find it intriguing.

Further on the subject of non-legal ways to curb spam, there are those that say redesigning the internet email system (some say as it should have been from the beginning) to not allow bogus sender email addresses would curb spam dramatically. I'm not very familiar with the technical aspects, but somehow, the sender address would be verified.

3:32 pm on Dec 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Further on the subject of non-legal ways to curb spam, there are those that say redesigning the internet email system (some say as it should have been from the beginning) to not allow bogus sender email addresses would curb spam dramatically.

I agree that stopping the forging of the return address would help things dramatically.

You will get resistance from some areas as there are some legitimate reasons to put in a different (but still valid) return email address.

Although, I think that overall, this would be highly supported if it was able to be implemented without interuption of email service.

5:33 pm on Dec 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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What about setting up something to DDOS the spammer companies? These "enlargement" places are usually serving up images in the email -- that's how they're getting past my Outlook rules.

So if we demanded the image 1,000,000 times / minute ... worth thinking about?

6:39 pm on Dec 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Moot.
Pendanticist.

[edited by: pendanticist at 8:14 pm (utc) on Dec. 18, 2003]

7:15 pm on Dec 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Microsoft takes a run [forbes.com].
7:23 pm on Dec 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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From the article:

"It's illegal, it doesn't pay and spam business models will fail," Smith said.

Well - it could become illegal (current law doesn't make it illegal, just adds some guidelines and sentencing suggestions) - it certainly does pay - and spam business models have never failed in the past, it is unlikely they will now. Ironically, this will just move exisitng US "spam jobs" offshore, IMHO.

11:07 pm on Dec 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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The bonded e-mail and other solutions that put a burden on the sender just won't work with business e-mail.

Most of my activity is an engineering consulting business. I often receive e-mail from individuals I have never heard of. Some of these result in consulting assignments (some major, multi-month full time work). These people are not going to pay for a bonded e-mail system just to ask me about availability and a quote. They will just deal with a competitor.

Some system eliminate computer sent e-mail that blocks confirmation messages (or problem messages) sent automatically from other businesses.

For those who are concerned about having individual messages considered spam, the law can include a "de minimis" exemption that would exempt senders of fewer than say, 10000 e-mails in a week, and other language to protect those who aren't sending out millions of advertisements.

As for spam from off shore, the spammers spam for money. The money flows to them through credit cards, which involve operations in the US. The US government has the power, if appropriate legislation is passed (possibily under existing law) to block the transfer of money. Likewise, those selling tangible producst that must be shipped use the services of package delivery companies (FedEx, UPS, etc.). These companies can be blocked from delivering packages from identified spammers. If the spammer cannot collect money and cannot ship products into the US, he has no incentive to send spam to the US (or other country with similar laws.

What is stopping these laws are the lobbying and contributions from those businesses and their organizations who what to preserve the right to fill our inboxes with ads for sub-prime loans, insurance, herbal suppliments, and such.

The same groups fought the anti-telemarketing efforts. I was involved in the development of the Do-Not-Call list and read and answered the comments submitted by these people. It was sickening to read how insurance companies, high interest mortgage companies, real estate people, etc. should have the right to call people against their wishes. We won that battle. With a lot of effort even the majority party reversed its oposition. With effort, we can win this one too.

 

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