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Spam and the Law: 10 Things You Can Do to Stay Out of Trouble

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Chonticha Marijne
October 16, 2006

Chonticha Marijne
Chonticha Marijne runs several Internet ventures, including e-AbundanceTools and e-AbundanceSystem. For free tools and resources, visit her blog.
Chonticha Marijne has written 1 articles for DomainInformer.
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Are you going global in your home based business? Opportunity knocked and you responded, but now you're wondering about some new problems rearing their potentially ugly heads. Take spam laws, for instance. You have legitimate intentions, but how do you remain legal and legit?

Everybody hates spam. You really don't want your hosting service provider to discontinue your website because they received spamming complaints, much less get into trouble with the trade commissions. But the structure of your business requires you to rely on a certain percentage of "hits" in response to your emails. What to do to stay in touch... all over the world?

In Europe and the UK, an EU "opt-in" directive is now in place and being upheld for international Internet marketers. Those who send commercial emails and mobile SMS messages without permission can now be fined thousands of dollars.

Countering the EU antispam legislation is the "CAN-SPAM Act," passed in the United States in 2003. In case you're wondering, the anagram stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003. Known as the "opt-out" directive, this little number allows virtual spamming by placing the responsibility on the recipient to opt-out by replying to unsolicited commercial emails with a message to unsubscribe.

Yes, you read that right. Spamming is by no means illegal, provided you play by the rules. But the advice is to watch it, especially if you are in the business of global marketing via the Internet. Theoretically, U.S. citizens who break EU and UK antispam laws may be extradited, heavily fined and tried. And the possible prison penalties that came in the wake of the new Act in the U.S. aren't anything to thumb your nose at either.

Take heed, global marketers, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 is only the prelude. You don't have to be an expert to predict that regulation for unsolicited email will continue to grow in future. So you should build your opt-in lists while you can, and as fast as possible, but do see it as your duty to use your lists responsibly, as your trusting subscribers so rightly deserve.

Now let's take a look at what you, a legitimate non-spamming Internet marketer, can do to stay out of trouble as you continue to grow your mailing list:

1. Use only email addresses that you obtained legitimately.

2. Consider using double opt-in lists.

3. If you want to play it completely safe, avoid purchasing leads altogether.

4. Keep any records that you have of your opt-in subscribers as proof (name, email address, IP address, date & time stamp etc.).

5. Never use anonymous remailers.

6. Clearly label your email as being a commercial message that "may contain advertising or solicitation".

7. Never use misleading subject lines.

8. Always provide a real reply-to email address.

9. Always provide a postal address (a PO Box is always a good idea - you really don't want to go public with your home address).

10. Always provide a working unsubscribe option.

This is by no means legal advice or intended as such -- only your personal lawyer can provide you with that. Take notice of the above tips, think before you press "Send" and you will have a good chance of being left alone to do your thing by the spam police.

May you continue to have a smooth ride on the information superhighway and may your journey be a safe, enjoyable and fruitful one!

This article is copyright © 2006 by Chonticha Marijne and may be reprinted in its entirety as long as both byline and copyright statement are included.

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