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The First U.S. Standards for Sending Commercial E-Mail

12/16/2003
<p>President George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States</p>

President George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States

On December 16, 2003 The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 was signed into law by President George W. Bush, establishing the United States' first national standards for the sending of commercial e-mail and requiring the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce its provisions.

"The acronym CAN-SPAM derives from the bill's full name: Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003. This is also a play on the usual term for unsolicited email of this type, spam. The bill was sponsored in Congress by Senators Conrad Burns and Ron Wyden.

"The CAN-SPAM Act is commonly referred to as the "You-Can-Spam" Act because the bill explicitly legalizes most e-mail spam. In particular, it does not require e-mailers to get permission before they send marketing messages. It also prevents states from enacting stronger anti-spam protections, and prohibits individuals who receive spam from suing spammers. The Act has been largely unenforced, despite a letter to the FTC from Senator Burns, who noted that "Enforcement is key regarding the CAN-SPAM legislation." In 2004 less than 1% of spam complied with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

"The law required the FTC to report back to Congress within 24 months of the effectiveness of the act.[4] No changes were recommended. It also requires the FTC to promulgate rules to shield consumers from unwanted mobile phone spam. On December 20, 2005 the FTC reported that the volume of spam has begun to level off, and due to enhanced anti-spam technologies, less was reaching consumer inboxes. A significant decrease in sexually-explicit e-mail was also reported.

"Later modifications changed the original CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 by (1) Adding a definition of the term "person"; (2) Modifying the term "sender"; (3) Clarifying that a sender may comply with the act by including a post office box or private mailbox and (4) Clarifying that to submit a valid opt-out request, a recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her email address and opt-out preferences, or take any other steps other than sending a reply email message or visiting a single page on an Internet website" (Wikipedia article on CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, accessed 01-19-2010).

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