Sources: House Near Vote on Senate Spam Bill

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The House of Representatives is prepared to vote this week on an anti-spam bill identical to the recently passed Senate legislation, according to sources.

The Senate bill would be brought to the floor for a vote by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-IL, to try to bypass competing bills and the need for a conference committee, according to various industry sources. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, which passed the Senate 97-0, was sent to the House on Oct. 24. A definitive date for debating and voting on the bill has not been set.

If passed by the House, the bill would head directly to the White House. President Bush is expected to sign it into law.

A spokesman for Hastert did not return calls seeking comment.

E-mail marketers have expressed relief that the legislation would override the patchwork of spam laws in 36 states. Sources said the House legislation would move up its effective date to Jan. 1. The Senate spam bill has an effective date of 120 days after its enactment. By making the effective date Jan. 1, the law would head off the recently passed California spam bill that has drawn widespread condemnation by commercial e-mailers.

"We are gung-ho for federal pre-emptive legislation," said Ashlen Cherry, director of privacy and government affairs at e-mail service provider Digital Impact. "If this means there has to be a federal registry, we'll take the registry."

Cherry predicted the House would overwhelmingly support the legislation and that a law would take effect by Jan. 1.

The House had two anti-spam bills under consideration, debating whether the legislation should include a private right of action. CAN-SPAM does not let consumers sue spammers. Consumer groups said such a provision is needed to root out spammers, but commercial e-mailers said it would only lead to frivolous lawsuits.

The CAN-SPAM Act's most controversial element is also its most unclear. The bill calls for the Federal Trade Commission to submit a plan within six months for building a do-not-spam registry. However, the FTC is not required to put the registry into effect. In the past, FTC members have doubted such a list is technologically feasible or would do much to stop spammers.

"[The law] will not do any good until the do-not-e-mail provision is fully executed," said Ray Everett-Church, co-founder of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail. "The rest of the bill, from my perspective, is fairly worthless in terms of protecting consumers."

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