Known officially as the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003, this Act was passed by the U.S. Senate on November 25, 2003, to regulate interstate commerce by imposing penalties on individuals transmitting unsolicited email through the Internet (that is, spam). On December 8, 2003, the House of Representatives agreed to pass it, and on December 16, 2003, President George W. Bush signed it into law. The Act took effect on January 1, 2004. Penalties include fines as high as $1 million and imprisonment for not more than five years.
A number of critics, including Steve Linford (the Director of the Spamhaus Project), argued that with the passage of such a law, the United States government fails to understand the spam problem—in contrast to the United Kingdom, which had passed a law making spam illegal. In short, affirmed Linford, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 attempts to regulate spam rather than ban it. This is a serious mistake, he argued. Consequently, the CAN-SPAM Act will result in more spam being generated rather than effectively dealing with it. Linford contended that given that the Act requires U.S. citizens to read and react to every spam “opt-out” clause, means, the reality is, that, quite unintentionally, millions of email users will find their addresses sold on the Internet. He said that ultimately there will have to be a new U.S. Federal law to properly ban spam.
Linford did praise Florida’s laws as being a step in the right direction for its provisions that make it a criminal act for spammers to use third-party exploits, including open relays/proxies. Although many spam groups operate offshore to circumvent U.S. laws, it is a good thing, noted Linford, that the CAN-SPAM Act applies both to spammers and to anyone who employs them, making individuals in the United States who hire spammers offshore to be subject to penalties under the CAN-SPAM Act. It is also a positive sign, he affirmed, that the CAN-SPAM Act states that there will be no penalties for Internet Service Providers who reject unwelcome email traffic; they would still be able to enforce any spam or email policy that they see fit.
Linford, S. Spamhaus Position on CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (S.877 / HR 2214). [Online, 2003.] Spamhaus Organization Website. http://www.spamhaus.org/position/ CAN-SPAM_Act_2003.html; Spamhaus Organization. S. 877 - CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. [Online, 2003.] Spamhaus Organization Website. http://www.spamhaus.org/legal/CAN-SPAM .html; Spam Laws. [Online, Nov 22, 2003.] SpamLaws Website. http://www.spamlaws.com/ federal/108s877nov22.html.