3 States Join Anti-Spam Chorus

Oregon and Arizona this week took steps toward enacting anti-spam laws, and a New Jersey assemblyman is urging his state's Senate to act on a bill it has been sitting on for a year.

Twenty-nine states have enacted anti-spam legislation to date.

House Bill 2737 passed Oregon's House unanimously this week and now goes to the Senate.

In Arizona, the Senate on Tuesday approved SB1280, accepting a minor change made in a House-Senate conference. If the Arizona House approves the change, the bill goes to the governor, who is expected to sign it.

Both states' bills would prohibit using false or misleading subject lines, using people's domain names without permission and misrepresenting the origin of commercial e-mails, all common spammer tactics.

The bills also would require “ADV:” to appear in the subject lines of unsolicited commercial e-mail and contain exemptions for senders with prior business relationships with recipients.

Under Oregon's bill, individuals, groups or the state could sue for up to $500 for each instance of false or misleading subject lines, use of people's domain names without permission and misrepresenting the origins of commercial e-mails.

It also would let individuals, groups or the state sue for $10 for spam received without “ADV:” labeling. The $10 provision aims to encourage class-action lawsuits, according to a spokeswoman for the bill's co-sponsor, Democratic Rep. Jeff Merckley.

Oregon's Senate is expected to stiffen that part of the bill.

Arizona's bill would let individuals and Internet service providers sue spammers for $10 per message or $25,000, whichever is less for individuals, or $10 per message or $25,000, whichever is greater for ISPs.

Also, the state attorney general could bring criminal charges. Violating Arizona's spam law would be a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by a $750 fine and four months in jail for individuals, or $10,000 fines for companies. But the criminal portion mainly targets senders of viruses.

Anti-spammers contend that allowing individual lawsuits is crucial to defend against spam, and as a result are pushing for federal legislation to contain such a provision. Business interests argue against letting individuals sue because they don't want trial lawyers involved.

Meanwhile, New Jersey assemblyman Alex DeCroce, a Republican, this week called on the state Senate to pass bill A-406, which would ban sending unsolicited commercial e-mail unless the sender has consent from the recipient, or has a pre-existing business relationship with the recipient and the message directly concerns the goods or services purchased by the receiver or concerns an ongoing contract.

It also would require commercial e-mailers to include valid names, return postal and e-mail addresses, telephone numbers and the dates and times the messages were sent.

A-406 also has an ADV-labeling provision and requires e-mailers to honor opt-out requests.

“This bill was passed by the General Assembly one year ago with my support, and it has not seen any action since,” DeCroce said in a statement. “I strongly urge my colleagues in the Senate to approve this legislation and send it to the governor before summer break.”

A DeCroce spokeswoman estimated that four pieces of spam legislation are sitting in the New Jersey Senate.

The growing patchwork of state anti-spam laws has prompted e-mail marketers and their representatives to call on Congress to pass national legislation superseding state legislation. Anti-spammers also want national legislation, but they want it to make opt-in e-mail marketing compulsory and to contain provisions for individuals to sue. In addition, they do not want it to supersede state law.

Federal anti-spam measures are working their way through both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and chances are better than ever of an anti-spam provision passing in this session. The Senate's Burns-Wyden CAN-SPAM Act would supersede state law, but does not contain a provision for individuals to sue spammers. House lawmakers also are reportedly considering crafting a bill that would supersede state law and would not contain a provision for individuals to sue spammers.

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