WASHINGTON, October 25, 2003 – The U.S. Senate passed a bill regulating unsolicited commercial email and allowing fines as large as $3 million for some types of illegal spam.

The Senate voted 97-0 to approve the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act after a compromise among members of the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee allowed an amendment authorizing a federal agency to launch a national do-not-spam registry.

Some critics, including the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email, have criticized CAN-SPAM, saying its provisions requiring consumers to opt out of unsolicited email instead of opting in to commercial email make it a pro-spam, not an antispam, bill.

No antispam bill has yet been approved by a committee in the U.S. House, as members continue to debate the merits of two bills introduced there.

CAN-SPAM allows maximum penalties of $3 million for some types of spam. The bill allows fines for email sent with misleading header information, deceptive subject headings or no functioning return address. CAN-SPAM also requires that unsolicited messages include valid physical postal addresses and clear notification that the message is an advertisement.

Additional criminal provisions were added into the bill through an amendment on the Senate floor. These criminal provisions create several criminal penalties, ranging up to five years in prison, for some common spamming practices, including the following:

  • hacking into someone else’s computer to send spam;
  • using open relays to send bulk spam with an intent to deceive;
  • falsifying header information in bulk spam;
  • registering for five or more email accounts using false registration information; and
  • using these accounts to send bulk spam.

See also…

Internet Law Forum


Judge Slaps Serial Spammer With 30 Months in the Slammer

by The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog

July 16, 2008 – We wonder whether it ever occurred to 27 year-old Adam Vitale that he could get could get serious time for his spamming habit. In any event, now he’s got 30 months to think about it.

According to the Reuters report, Vitale was caught making a deal with a government informant to send junk e-mails that advertised a computer security program in return for 50% of the product’s profits.

We send out a lot of emails on a daily basis – as we’re sure the average LB reader does – but we ain’t got nothing on these guys. According to the indictment, Vitale sent out over 1 million emails over the course of one week in August 2005. He was prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1037, the anti-spam statute passed in 2003.

Yesterday, the SDNY’s Judge Denny Chin gave Vitale 30 months for sending the spam e-mails to more than 1.2 million AOL subscribers in a scheme that reportedly foiled the AOL’s spam-filtering system. Chin also hit Vitale with a $180,000 restitution bill, to be paid to AOL. (Vitale’s partner-in-crime, Todd Moeller, was sentenced last November to 27 months for his role in the scheme.)

“Spamming is serious criminal conduct; this is not a teenager engaging in child’s play,” said Judge Chin.