Lockyer Peeved Over Can-Spam

Cory Kincaid
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – A must-attend for professionals in the email sending and receiving industries, a group of Internet industry leaders headlined the "Spam and the Law" conference this week, a national event presented by The Institute for Spam and Internet Public Policy (ISIPP).

An acronym for 'Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act,' Can-Spam Act went into effect on Jan 1, 2004, and invalidated anti-spam laws already in effect, or on the verge of being enacted, with a new federal law that is generally considered to be weaker than competing laws.

To a packed room of Internet Service Providers, online publishers, spam-filtering companies, online marketers, and email service providers, the consensus among keynote speakers State Attorney General Bill Lockyer, Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, and others was that when it comes to email and the law, the newly instated Can-Spam Act is a "total failure" and will do very little to protect Internet users, or curb the estimated 75 percent of spam that currently ends up in email boxes.

"Congress has spoken," Lawrence Lessig stated prior to the conference. "And unless we deal with any mistakes now, spam will dramatically weaken the Internet for years to come."

Keynote Guy Kawasaki, a marketing specialist, added, "There will be little distinction between spam and email marketing if we leave it to the politicians. The industry has to solve this problem."

A portion of the conference focused on spam law compliance and was guided by a group of attorneys who addressed specific Can-Spam issues and topics such as "What Existing Anti-Spam Laws Mean for You," which was moderated by John Praed of the Internet Law Group. Praed and others instructed email marketers on how to stay on the right side of the new federal law in their marketing practices.

Both Attorney General Lockyer and Lessig blamed the influence of special interest groups for the weaknesses in the Can-Spam law.

"Until politicians are unguided by business interests and can create regulations in the interests of consumers, the climate likely won't change," they were quoted as saying.

Lockyer, who had fostered an opt-in anti-spam bill for months prior to the federal government's law, was particularly outspoken on the inadequacies of Can-Spam Act.

The competiting California law, also scheduled for a Jan. 1, 2004 enactment, would have given California residents the right to sue junk emailers.

Lockyer's legislation was also the country's first opt-in anti-spam law and would have required email marketers to first gain permission from the end user before sending commercial email.

"It is ironic, with an anti-government federal government that tells us they trust us and want us to take our own action, that the only thing they did was give the government the right to take action," Lockyer stated.

Lockyer said his impression in the aftermath of Can-Spam enactment is that nothing much has changed in solving the spam problem and marketers are doing little to comply with its provisions.

He added that his budget was cut by 22 percent in the last four years and the Attorney General's office needs as much help as possible from computer users when it comes to reporting spam abuse.

According to statistics, it costs California businesses $1.5 billion annually to clean up spam files.