Australia Passes Anti-Spam Bill

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Australia's parliament approved legislation yesterday that bans unsolicited commercial e-mail outright in most cases.


Unlike the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 nearing approval in the United States, Australia's Spam Bill 2003 requires customer consent before a commercial message may be sent. Consent can be obtained directly or inferred through a business relationship. The bill becomes law 120 days after Australia's governor-general approves it.


The legislation requires all commercial e-mail sent from Australia to include information about the sender, including contact information, and an unsubscribe option. It bans harvesting e-mail addresses or the use of lists obtained through harvesting. Repeat violators are subject to fines up to $729,000 (AUS $1 million).


The regulation of commercial e-mail applies only to e-mail containing an "Australian link," which includes messages originating there or sent on behalf of an organization located there. It exempts government bodies, political parties, charities, educational institutions and religious groups.


The Australian Direct Marketing Association supported the legislation. Australia's government acknowledged that the law would be a small step in fighting spam, which has become an international problem.


"The Australian government does not pretend that legislation alone will be the silver bullet to address this global nuisance," Daryl Williams, the government's communications minister, said in a statement. "Spam poses a complex problem for the international community, and the solution is not straightforward."


According to a recent United Nations report, the majority of spam worldwide comes from the United States. The European Union, which last month put in force a directive banning unsolicited commercial e-mail, has also urged international cooperation to fight spam. The United States, however, has not banned unsolicited commercial e-mail, like the EU and Australia.


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