January 1, 2004
Senator <Your Senator>:
I would like to congratulate you in helping to enact the CAN-SPAM act (or as computer industry pundits have called it the "Yes You Can Spam" act). In one stroke of the pen the U.S. Government has now made it legal for over 22.9 million small businesses1 and large businesses to send me their e-mail and force me to opt out of each company. If every company sent me just one e-mail in the first year this would equate to an average of 63,800 e-mails PER DAY that I would have to opt out of. Hopefully these businesses will have the intelligence not to see this as a US Government "stamp of approval" to send out Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail.
This "mouse turned into an elephant by committee" legislation not only doesn't do what was intended, it has in fact removed the teeth of laws that were effective. California started with "opt out" legislation. California found the spammers abused this legislation. The final California law was an "opt-in" approach and allowed individuals the right to sue spammers. The CAN-SPAM act pre-empts this legislation.
Tim Muris, the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission warned the measure "could actually be harmful" to the FTC's ongoing efforts to sue spammers2. As far as I can tell from the act this is an unfunded mandate for the FTC (who is already overburdened) to pursue the spammers. In short, it appears that there is very little that the FTC can do to enforce this legislation.
I do hope that the FTC is not able to enact the "Do Not Spam" list. Spammers will become even more efficient at spamming by using this list to verify the "live" e-mail addresses on their list. Technically unsophisticated consumers will add their name and thereby compound to their spam problems. Spammers are international and do not care about United States Laws. They use any tool available to help them spam3.
The fact that the Direct Marketing Association helped with this legislation4 should have been a red flag. The DMA has in the past opposed legislation such as the "Do Not Call" List5. I do believe that I have a personal right not to be bothered at home by my phone, and this same right should extend to my e-mail. The DMA likes to call this personal intrusion "free speech".
In conclusion I am deeply disappointed in the legislative process. From what I can tell the US Senate and the US House Of Representatives "represented" big business and increased intrusion into my life. You have ignored pleas from the FTC and the advice of anti-spam activists6. Instead of making my life easier or better this law now makes my e-mail address spam heaven.
Provide me an e-mail address and I will be happy to forward all my spam to you.
<Your Name And Address>
1 The US census bureau. See http://www.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbastats.html
2 See "Bush OKs spam bill--but critics not convinced" http://news.com.com/2100-1028-5124724.html?tag=nl
3 http://gandalf.home.digital.net/spamfaq.html - alt.spam FAQ or "Figuring out fake E-Mail & Posts".
4 See http://news.com.com/2100-1032_3-5127621.html ""The DMA's fingerprints are all over this thing," said Jim Nail, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. "It's an early Christmas gift to marketers, actually.""
5 See http://money.cnn.com/2003/09/24/technology/ftc_donotcall/
cc Sen. <Your Senators>, Representative <Your Representative>, Sen. Conrad Burns, Sen. Ron Wyden