California Tackles Spam
Not waiting for Congress to take action, the California State Senate has passed a bill that would turn spam from a misdemeanor to a felony offense and cost spammers an estimated $500 per unsolicited e-mail sent.
State Senator Debra Bowen, a Democrat from Redondo Beach, California, says she introduced the measure, SB 12, because current law has had little effect on combating unwanted e-mail.
Current antispam law sets up an "opt-out" model, which allows spammers to continue sending unwanted e-mail until asked to stop, according to a spokesperson from Senator Bowen's office. However, responding to spam through the opt-out model only verifies a live e-mail address, she notes.
SB 12 presents an "opt-in" requirement. Spammers would have to have permission before sending e-mail if they do not already have a business relationship with the recipient. The "opt-in" model is based on a federal law that bans unsolicited or junk faxes due to the cost shifting (from the sender to the recipient) associated with junk fax.
The costs associated with spam from the recipient side are enough to mirror the federal junk fax law, which allows consumers to sue fax spammers for $500 per fax, the Bowen spokesperson said. Costs mount as ISPs raise access fees in order to pay for e-mail management, blocking, and filtering, and as businesses hire extra technology staff, purchase filtering software, and deal with employee productivity loss because of spam.
SB 12 is halfway through the legislative process, awaiting a vote by the California State Assembly. It could take up to eight weeks before it goes to the desk of Governor Gray Davis for a signature.
While Governor Davis has not taken a formal position on the bill, Senator Bowen's office says the senator is confident of his support. Governor Davis last year signed similar bills authored by Senator Bowen, one concerning junk fax and another that created a "do not call" list for California telemarketers.
Federal and state authorities have cited current law when filing criminal and civil actions involving spam and related cybercrime. The Federal Trade Commission and several state attorneys general touted
Senator Bowen's office said if California passes the law enforcing the "opt-in" method, it will not only send a strong antispam message to Congress but to other states as well to go further than current laws.