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President Signs Anti-Spam Bill into Law

WASHINGTON (AFP eWire - Dec. 16, 2003) - President Bush signed legislation on Tuesday, Dec. 16, that seeks to curb unsolicited commercial emails, commonly known as spam, but the law will currently have little or no impact upon nonprofit organizations.

The Can-Spam Act (S. 877) will make it unlawful to send unsolicited commercial emails and will require organizations to give recipients an opportunity to opt out of receiving further emails. The legislation includes strict penalties for violators, including damages of up to $250 per spam email with a cap of $2 million.

S. 877 will also preempt any existing state law, such as California's law that requires marketers and advertisers to get a recipient's permission first before sending any commercial email.

Under the bill, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will be given the authority to create a national 'do not email' list, but the head of the FTC has already indicated his agency will not undertake the development of such a list.

Most charitable emails will not be affected by the bill since the FTC does not have jurisdiction over nonprofits. However, email from charities about programs, services or products of a commercial nature might be affected, depending on how the FTC interprets the bill.

Another consideration is how the current 'do not call' list holds up in court. Decisions about that list, and whether or not charities should be affected by the list, may have an impact on the FTC's decision.

AFP will continue to monitor how this law proceeds and update members accordingly.

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