Anti-spam bill signed into law

President Bush today signed a law creating civil and criminal penalties for sending unwanted marketing spam.

The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM) gives the Federal Trade Commission, state attorneys general and Internet service providers the ability to enforce rules that require senders of marketing e-mail to include special warnings for pornographic messages, to offer opt-out mechanisms and to not use false or deceptive information in e-mail subject lines.

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, lets FTC fine companies up to $250 per e-mail with a cap of $2 million that can be increased to $6 million for repeat violations. The cap, however, does not apply to e-mail using false or deceptive subject lines. The law, sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), also creates criminal penalties, including prison sentence of up to five years.

FTC must also submit to Congress a plan to implement a do-not-spam list, similar to the do-not-call registry. After submitting its report, FTC is charged with launching the list.

'Kingpin spammers will now face tough rules and harsh consequences for sending unwanted, offensive e-mail to unwilling recipients,' Wyden said. 'Swift and aggressive enforcement will be essential.'

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