Spam and the Law: 10 Things You Can Do to Stay Out of Trouble
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October 16, 2006
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
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.