On December 16, 2003, President Bush signed into law the
Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act
of 2003 (CAN-SPAM Act), which establishes a framework of
administrative, civil, and criminal tools to help America's consumers,
businesses, and families combat unsolicited commercial e-mail, known as
The new law is a pro-consumer measure that allows consumers to
choose to stop further unsolicited spam from a sender. It also
provides a protection against spam containing unmarked
sexually-oriented or pornographic material.
Background on Today's Presidential Action
Spam is a problem for Americans. E-mail is an extremely
important and effective means of communications and is used by
millions of Americans on a daily basis for personal and
commercial purposes. Its convenience and efficiency, however,
are increasingly threatened by the rise in spam. Spam
currently accounts for over half of all e-mail traffic. Today,
most spam is fraudulent or deceptive in nature. The growth in
spam also imposes significant costs on Internet Service
Providers (ISPs), businesses, and other organizations, since
they can only handle a finite volume of e-mail without making
further investments in their infrastructure.
The law provides a well-balanced approach that will help to
address some of the harmful impacts of spam. The problems
associated with spam cannot be solved by Federal legislation
alone, but will require the development and adoption of new
technologies. Nonetheless, the law will help address the
problems associated with the rapid growth and abuse of spam.
The new law establishes important "rules of the road" for civil
enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), other
Federal agencies, State attorneys general, and ISPs to help
curb spam. It also creates new criminal penalties to assist in
deterring the most offensive forms of spam, including unmarked
sexually-oriented messages and e-mails containing fraudulent
headers. At the same time, the law caps statutory damages for
civil violations in most cases. The law also provides greater
certainty in interstate commerce for businesses that would
otherwise face a wide diversity of state laws on spam.
The law builds upon the Administration's efforts to empower
consumers with choices in the technology field. Under the law,
consumers are provided with a choice not to receive any further
unsolicited messages from a sender. Senders that do not honor
a consumer's request are subject to civil penalties.
The law strengthens a cornerstone of the Administration's
agenda to help protect children against pornography. The law
makes spam containing unmarked sexually-oriented material a
criminal offense. The labeling requirement gives parents a
tool to protect their children from such messages. Under the
law, senders of e-mail are required to place warning labels on
messages containing sexually-oriented or pornographic
material. If they knowingly violate this requirement, spammers
are subject to fines or imprisonment.
The Administration supports the law's tools to help deter the
harmful effects of deceptive and misleading spam. The law
establishes both civil and criminal prohibitions to deter
spammers from using false or misleading identification, and
imposes penalties against spammers for these violations.