The US House of Representatives has approved an amended version of a bill that will allow penalties of up to $6 million and five years in jail for sending some email spam, the last step before the bill can be signed into law by President George W. Bush.
The House, by unanimous consent, approved an amended version of the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act of 2003, which had been bouncing between the House and Senate as both houses of Congress made changes to it.
Passage of the bill by the House on Monday, following the Senate's approval of it on November 25, send it to President Bush for his signature. Senate sources said they expected the bill to be signed into law by the President by the end of the year.
About 13 million pieces of unsolicited commercial email are sent each day, which represents about half of all email sent.
Critics have said CAN-SPAM would allow "legal" spam to continue because it required that email users opt out of receiving commercial email, instead of requiring that spammers receive opt-in permission before sending email. Some critics have also decried the bill authors' decision not to allow individual email users to sue spammers.
CAN-SPAM allows Internet service providers to sue spammers and state attorneys general to sue on behalf of users. This version of CAN-SPAM also includes a provision requiring the US Federal Trade Commission to come back to Congress within six months with recommendations on how to set up a national do-not-spam list, similar to the national do-not-call telemarketing list now in effect in the US.
CAN-SPAM includes a criminal penalty of up to a year in jail for sending commercial email with false or misleading header information, plus criminal penalties, ranging up to five years in prison, for some common spamming practices, including hacking into somebody else's computer to send spam, using open relays to send spam that's intended to deceive and registering five or more e-mail accounts using false information and using those accounts to send bulk spam.
A pumped-up House version of the bill increased penalties from the original Senate version passed in October, with up to $US250 per spam email with a cap of $US2 million that could be tripled to $US6 million for aggravated violations.
The first Senate version allowed fines of up to $US100 per piece of spam sent with misleading header information, and a maximum fine of $3 million for aggravated cases.
The House bill also applies its requirements on all pieces of commercial email, not just unsolicited commercial e-mail, as required in the Senate bill.
Requirements on commercial email include a valid reply-to address, a valid postal address and accurate headers and subject lines.