FTC Starts Comment Period for Do-Not-E-Mail Registry

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The Federal Trade Commission requested public comment yesterday for its report to Congress on the feasibility of a do-not-e-mail registry.


The CAN-SPAM Act requires the FTC to submit a plan for implementing a do-not-e-mail registry by June 16. The commission is on record opposing such a list, modeled after the popular no-call registry, saying it would do little to stop spam.


The FTC also requested comment on how to define commercial e-mail. The CAN-SPAM Act carries a raft of regulations for e-mail whose "primary purpose" is commercial activity. The FTC is required to devise rules for defining criteria for determining this.


The FTC said beginning today it would post a Web-based form for submitting comments at www.regulations.gov. Comments for the do-not-e-mail registry must be received by March 31; the deadline for all other comments is April 12.


In addition to guidance on the do-not-e-mail registry and "primary purpose" rule, the FTC notice posted in the Federal Register requested comment on four other rulemaking areas under CAN-SPAM. The law gives the FTC authority to change the definition of transactional e-mail messages that are exempted from CAN-SPAM requirements. The FTC requested comment on whether it should change the categories for such messages laid down in the law.


The FTC notice also asked for comment on whether CAN-SPAM's requirement for commercial e-mailers to honor unsubscribe requests in 10 business days is unreasonable. The federal law gives the FTC the power to decide whether spamming practices in addition to harvesting and dictionary attacks should qualify as "aggravated" violations of the law.


Finally, the FTC asked for comment on further rulemaking to clarify the law. Areas mentioned for specific comment include whether operators of "forward-to-a-friend" services are liable; the obligations of multiple senders of a single e-mail; whether a P.O. box qualifies as a physical address as required under the law; and whether CAN-SPAM's requirements for the "from" line are clear.


The FTC also will accept comment for its other reports to Congress required under CAN-SPAM on establishing a bounty hunter system; establishing a labeling regulation for commercial e-mail; and assessing the effectiveness of the law.


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