June 14, 2000 3:30 PM PDT

House committee OKs anti-spam bill

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  Spam bill overview
• Requires spam to include a valid reply address

• Requires spammers to stop spamming when a consumer asks them to

• Prohibits falsifying email routing information

• Requires spam to be labeled as spam

• Allows ISPs to establish spam policies: we accept all spam; we accept no spam; or we accept spam for a tariff

• Requires ISPs that are compensated for accepting spam to offer their subscribers an opt-out list

• Allows victims (consumers or ISPs) to petition the FTC for a cease-and-desist order or to sue

• Protects innocent third parties (Internet backbone providers)

• Facilitates the availability of ISP spam policies

• Protects state laws currently used to sue spammers (trespass, theft, etc.)

• Pre-empts state laws regarding spam policies and other aspects of the act

Federal anti-spam legislation passed a key test today, as the House Commerce Committee voted to approve a bill limiting junk email.

The Unsolicited Electronic Email Act would place restrictions on email marketers. Those limits include requiring spam to include a valid reply address and forcing people and companies to stop spamming upon request.

"This legislation weeds out fraudulent spam and eliminates the burden" of deleting unwanted email, Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, said in a statement. Green co-wrote the bill with Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M.

Despite numerous attempts, Congress has so far failed to enact anti-spam legislation. While many states have passed laws limiting unsolicited bulk email, early legal tests have gone against them.

Courts have so far struck down two anti-spam laws, citing constitutional limits on the states' ability to regulate interstate commerce.

Spam watchers said the bill stands a good chance of success as it moves toward a full vote in the House and a reconciliation with a companion bill in the Senate. The committee approved the bill by a unanimous voice vote today.

Ray Everett-Church, chief privacy officer at AllAdvantage.com, an Internet company that pays consumers to surf the Web, said the bill has a broad coalition of backers and has bipartisan backing in both the House and the Senate.

"This legislation has a lot of support from industry, from Internet service providers and from consumer groups," he said, adding that some marketing companies oppose it.

The Direct Marketing Association did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.


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