What is the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003?

Last modified: September 25, 2019
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The CAN-SPAM Act is the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act. While this law will not stop spam, it does make most spam illegal and ultimately less attractive to spammers. The law is specific about requirements to send commercial email and empowers the federal government to enforce the law. The penalties can include a substantive fine and/or imprisonment for up to 5 years. The law also includes a private right of action clause for internet service providers (but not for individuals) to sue a sender regarding the receipt of prohibited messages.

The CAN-SPAM Act went into effect January 1, 2004 and preempts all state laws. In May 2008 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released it’s Statement of Basis and Purpose and Final Discretionary Rule (Final Rule). This statement contains four new rules, and also contains some clarifications and guidance to the text of the original act. Read the FTC press release. The new rules went into effect on July 7th 2008. Official CAN-SPAM Act.

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