Australia's House of Representatives passed national anti-spam legislation today that would penalize repeat spam offenders as much as $733,000 (U.S.), in addition to unlimited legal fees.
The Aussie spam bill pertains only to spam that originates in its homeland, although it did not go without mention in the House of Representatives that the majority of unwanted emails soliciting anything from Viagra, penile enlargement, to pornographic material seem to originate in the U.S.
Australian Minister for Communications Senator Richard Alston strongly urged the U.S. to consider implementing more effective anti-spam legislation to help ease the worldwide blight of unrelenting email clutter.
"The bulk of spam seems to originate in the U.S. and if the U.S. goes down the same path as us by adopting an opt-in model, then I think that will make a very big difference," Alston said in a statement.
"We're not so much interested in prosecuting people as stopping spamming, and if we can stop it by deterring them with serious penalties and an effective enforcement regime then I think we'll achieve our objective," Alston continued.
The new legislation will be enforced by the Australian Communications Authority and will not prosecute anyone who accidentally sends an email to a non-consenting recipient.
The new law will also put a ban on all electronic email harvesting tools, but it will not affect email marketing companies that have established an opt-in database of email addresses.
In a similar move, Britain followed suit by passing a law that fines spammers upwards of $8,057 (U.S) if convicted on charges of spamming via email or text messaging. That law would only cover home users and goes into effect on Dec. 11, 2003.
The new law will be enforced by Britain's Office of the Information Commissioner, it was announced.
A British watchdog group claims that more than half of all emails received go under the category of "spam," which is defined as email communication that is not consensual.
Spam is a virulent form of transmitting computer viruses and worms, and has also become popularized lately as a form of identity theft or "spoofing" as it is called, where online marketers use bogus return email addresses associated with legitimate companies.
Amazon.com is currently in litigation against 11 online marketers that it claims used its company name to sell products without consent.
Joining its European counterpart, Italy recently stepped up the plate and drafted a law that would fine spammers up to $100,000 (U.S.) and in some cases would carry a three-year prison term. The Italian government sent out a stiff warning to bulk emailers to make sure that each and every address recipient in their database has willingly opted in.
In the meantime Bill SB 186 was passed this week in the California Legislature banning all unsolicited commercial email and enabling state residents to sue violators for up to $1 million in damages.
Under the terms of the California bill, penalties can be avoided if the email sender contains ADV or ADV:ADLT in the subject line and provides a valid unsubscribe link or toll-free number.
Governor Gray Davis has until Oct. 11 to sign SB 186 into law.