A Weblog About Topics and Issues Discussed in the Book Spam Kings by Brian McWilliams

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January 7, 2005

A Year of CAN SPAM

John Levine has a brief piece at Circle ID reviewing the first-year performance of CAN-SPAM, the federal law governing junk email.

Levine makes some familiar arguments about how CAN-SPAM's weaknesses outweigh its benefits. He tells a funny anecdote about how a religious organization harvested email addresses off his church's website, and then spammed him. When he complained, the organization "pompously assured me that they complied with the letter and spirit of CAN SPAM."

Levine also notes that the shocking criminal conviction of spammer Jeremy Jaynes took place under Virginia state law, not CAN-SPAM.

To me, the best evidence of CAN-SPAM's weakness is the behavior of big Internet service providers, not their rhetoric.

Back in 2003, Microsoft was one of the Internet heavyweights lobbying for the federal anti-spam law. The company continues to defend CAN-SPAM, even though folks like Levine say it's been a bust.

But look at Microsoft's recent legal moves against spammers. Microsoft has certainly filed its share of CAN-SPAM lawsuits (in July 2004 versus Daniel Lin and Super Viagra Group, for example). But it seems to prefer to deal with spammers under Washington State law and in King County Superior Court, not under CAN-SPAM.

Case in point: the June 2004 lawsuit against Pin Point Media (a.k.a. the Bulk Barn). Or the September 2004 lawsuit against Levon Gillespie, operator of Cheapbulletproof.com. (The pending case against Synergy 6 and Scott Richter is also in Washington Superior Court, but that was filed in December 2003, before CAN-SPAM went into effect.)

Ironically, as Levine notes, CAN SPAM wiped out a lot of more stringent state laws. Fortunately, laws like those in Virginia and Washington are still around.

Posted by brian at January 7, 2005 6:23 PM


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