Email Law: New CAN-SPAM FAQ for Internet Marketers

Image: kid protected for data rainWhat is CAN-SPAM?
The name CAN-SPAM is an acronym from the original bill’s full name: Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003. Its purpose was to set the first national standards for sending commercial e-mail, and to limit the bulk sending of unsolicited email. The law requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce its provisions.

What email messages are subject to CAN-SPAM?

The law applies to commercial electronic mail messages with the primary purpose of advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.  

What email messages are exempt from CAN-SPAM?
Non-commercial messages, such as those with religious, political, or governmental purposes, are exempt. Further, commercial emails which are not promotional, such as tranactional messages, are exempt. Subject line and above-the-fold content is often used to determine the nature of a message, so transactional emails may contain a portion of promotional content and still be exempt from the law.

Does CAN-SPAM prohibit sending unsolicited emails?
No, it regulates this practice by requiring three type of compliance:

  • Unsubscribe – Subscribers must be able to exit lists.
    o All emails have an effective unsubscribe mechanism.
    o Unsubscribe requests are honored within 10 days.
    o Lists of those who opt out are only kept for compliance purposes.
  • Content – Messages must be accurately described and attributed.
    o From lines are accurate.
    o Subject lines are non-deceptive and are descriptive of message content.
    o The physical address of the publisher or advertiser is included.
    o Adult content is labeled.
  • Sending Methods – publishers must not use spam tactics.
    o Messages can not be sent through open relays.
    o They can not be sent to harvested email addresses.
    o Messages can not contain a false headers.

Senator John McCain added a last-minute amendment to allow the FTC to enforce remedies on businesses promoted in spam when the FTC is able to identify the specific spammer who initiated the e-mail. This discourages the engagement of surrogates to spm on a company’s behalf.

FCC Implementing CAN-SPAM Policies | CAN-SPAM Legislation

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