State 'No-Spam' List Would Be a First

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A proposal by two Missouri lawmakers to create a state "do-not-spam" list similar to telemarketing do-not-call lists is innovative but may not be effective unless the concept is applied nationally, an attorney specializing in Internet privacy said yesterday.

State Rep. Chuck Graham of Columbia, MO, and state Sen. Wayne Good of St. Louis plan to introduce legislation in 2003 that would create a registry for Missouri consumers who wish to block unsolicited commercial e-mail. The Missouri proposal is unlike any other anti-spam legislation that has been proposed at the state or federal level, said Dave Kramer, an attorney with Wilson Sonsini, Palo Alto, CA.

The state of Washington bans deceptive spam, and California allows Internet service providers to declare themselves off limits to spammers, but neither state maintains a registry. A proposed do-not-spam list law for ISPs in California, which Kramer helped write, fell to a governor's veto in 1999.

Unless the do-not-spam list lets consumers file private suits for violations, it may prove ineffective given the sheer volume of spam on the Internet, Kramer said. A state attorney general's office might lack the wherewithal to keep up with the massive caseload and would have a hard time warning the multitude of spammers that the list exists.

"The problem will vastly outstrip his resources," he said. "The number of violations will dwarf the number of prosecutions."

Though national anti-spam legislation has been discussed, nothing proposed so far has come close to a national do-not-spam list, much less an outright ban on spam, Kramer said.

"Window dressing has been talked about at the federal level, and has been for seven years," he said.

The Missouri proposal has the backing of state Attorney General Jay Nixon, who has been active in promoting the state's telemarketing DNC list and taken a hard line on telemarketers in the past. If created, a no-spam list would let Missouri consumers register their e-mail addresses as easily as they currently are able to register for the state's DNC list, according to Nixon's office. Registration to the Missouri DNC list is free and available online or by calling a toll-free hotline.

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