The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003- full name, Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing - established national standards for sending commercial email.
CAN-SPAM allows the Federal Trade Commission to implement a National Do-Not-Email list similar to the National Do-Not-Call Registry against telemarketing. However, the FTC soundly rejected this proposal, and will not implement such a list.
The reason this all comes to mind today, is this morning my inbox was so jammed up with bogus holiday services and promotions that I thought it was a good time to review the CAN SPAM laws.
This week marks the six-year anniversary of the President making the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act official. Bolstered by an overwhelming approval by the U.S. congress after six years of debate, it created the first federal law regulating spam. Many U.S. states already had anti-spam laws. In some cases the state laws were more stringent, though overruled by the federal version.
The law went into effect January 1, 2004. Here’s a quick rundown of the law’s main provisions to keep in mind while sending out your email marketing campaigns.
•Header information must be correct and legitimate. Your email’s “from” and “to” lines must be accurate, including the originating domain name, and identify the person who initiated the email.
•The subject line cannot mislead your email recipients about the content within the email.
•Your email recipients must have an opt-out method and it must be clear, easy to follow, and it must work to end any commercial messages.
•The opt-out option must be available to recipients for at least 30 days after they receive your commercial email.
•Opt-out requests must be handled within 10 business days.
•It’s illegal for you to sell or share opt-out email addresses.
•If your list is not double-opt in, your email must be identified as an advertisement and include a valid bricks-and-mortar postal address.
•Don’t harvest emails and don’t use automated means to create email addresses.
•If you share an email address with a third party, you must give the recipient “clear and conspicuous notice at the time the consent was communicated”.
The law also distinguished commercial emails from transactional emails, if the purpose of the email is to “facilitate, complete, or confirm”. Since the original law was enacted, the FTC has made some updates including some in the last few months including Spam directed at wireless and mobile related devices.
Here are some of the newest provisions, cut and pasted directly from the FTC Web site:
1.an e-mail recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her e-mail address and opt-out preferences, or take any steps other than sending a reply e-mail message or visiting a single Internet Web page to opt out of receiving future e-mail from a sender;
2.the definition of “sender” was modified to make it easier to determine which of multiple parties advertising in a single e-mail message is responsible for complying with the Act’s opt-out requirements;
3.a “sender” of commercial e-mail can include an accurately-registered post office box or private mailbox established under United States Postal Service regulations to satisfy the Act’s requirement that a commercial e-mail display a “valid physical postal address”; and
4.a definition of the term “person” was added to clarify that CAN-SPAM’s obligations are not limited to natural persons.
Keep in mind, CAN SPAM law is intended for the U.S., so email in other countries is governed differently. The European Union, for instance, has a set of standards, but the actual laws are different throughout Europe.
In December 2003 when Bush enacted the original CAN SPAM law,many critics said it would do little or nothing to lessen the amount of spam. The joke at the time was that CAN was a verb allowing permission. It appears the critics were correct. But proponents of the federal law still say it helps send a powerful message to spammers through a nationwide legal standard.
If you’re just starting out with email campaigns, adhering to legal standards might seem overwhelming. In this case there’s no substitute for chatting with your legal team. But for many simple email campaigns, just using the features of software like Freakin' Genius Marketing's Smartymail(tm) can help ensure you’re covered for opt-out mechanisms and ensuring your header information is correct.
Well, I hope this post acts as a nice reminder for everyone. Gotta get back to Spaminating my mailbox. Wishing you a Spam Free Holiday!