How much spam can canspam spam if can spam can spam spam? This tongue twister is far easier to repeat four times than it is to understand the CANSPAM law. It was in fact the Do Not Call Registry, the telemarketing ceasefire, which inspired the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (or CANSPAM) Act. This act, which applies to all commercial email, was signed into law in December 2003, and it forces marketers to have a little decency.
As the full name suggests, the act was first written to protect minors from receiving pornography. The benefits, however, have allowed many to breathe a sigh of relief. The bulk of the law actually requires telemarketers to disclose certain information to the recipient including:
The biggest win is that email addresses can no longer be obtained through automated means. In other words, it is now illegal to buy email addresses obtained through harvesting. The only way a telemarketer can obtain an email address is by getting your consent or through a legal third party agreement.
What the law doesn't protect against is spam from companies that already have an established relationship with you, which includes emails from billing and credit card companies. For example, perhaps you bought an appliance at Sears and provided your email address, because of your established relationship with Sears, Sears can send you email.
Penalties for CANSPAM violators are serious. Violators can face penalties of $250 per violation with an upper limit of $2 million. What the CANSPAM Act cannot do is track down violators. Spammers who use an open proxy are nearly impossible to find. Victims can forward the email address to the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org. The FTC collects violator list in order to "pursue law enforcement actions." It's vague, and probably ineffective, but who knows unless you try. But just the gleeful thought of possibly bringing a spammer to justice should be enough motivation to send out your email.