Spammers Face Jail Under New Maryland Law

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The Maryland legislature passed a bill late Monday that threatens commercial e-mailers using fraudulent tactics with up to 10 years in jail.

The state House and Senate unanimously passed The Maryland Spam Deterrence Act. Misdemeanor criminal charges can be brought against a person who uses deception to disguise the origin of messages or who signs up for more than 15 e-mail accounts with false information to send commercial e-mail. The law can apply to senders of as few as 11 commercial e-mail messages in a 24-hour period.

Depending on the number of messages sent and the number of violations, those convicted are liable to prison terms of three, five and 10 years, fines ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 and the seizure of assets and proceeds from the mailings. The state attorney general is also empowered to bring civil charges against violators.

The bill heads to Gov. Robert Ehrlich for his signature.

The federal CAN-SPAM Act overrides state anti-spam laws, except those like Maryland's that deal with fraud.

AOL strongly backed the Maryland bill, which is similar to a law enacted in Virginia a year ago. AOL said it would work with Maryland to pursue spammers and share information of spam reports from its members. The company said it would continue to push for tough state remedies, including pending laws in Ohio and Minnesota.

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