What is the CAN-SPAM Act?

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What is the CAN-SPAM Act?

Article: 000001728    Product: All

What is the CAN-SPAM Act?

CAN-SPAM Act of 2003

While we cannot provide legal advice, we feel it is important to provide you with our interpretation of how the federal law may affect you. This is a summary of some provisions of the law, and is not a full analysis of how it may apply to you. If you believe you may be affected, you should consult with your own attorney.

What You Need to Know

The CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) Act went into effect January 1, 2004 and preempts all state laws. This means that it overrides all individual state spam laws (39 at last count). The great news is that now you only have to comply with one law - the federal law. We are thrilled with the passing of this legislation. We believe it is a positive step towards fighting spam while making it easier for legitimate email marketers to comply with anti-spam laws.

In May 2008, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved four new rule provisions and a Statement of Basis and Purpose that amend and clarify the original Act.  For further information on these new clarifications and how they affect you, please see "What do I need to know about the FTC's 2008 updates to CAN-SPAM?". This article covers only the provisions of the original Act.

Fighting Spam

While this law will not stop spam, it does make most spam illegal and ultimately less attractive to spammers. The law is specific about requirements to send commercial email and empowers the federal government to enforce the law. The penalties can include a substantive fine and/or imprisonment for up to 5 years. The law also includes a private right of action clause for internet service providers (but not for individuals) to sue a sender regarding the receipt of prohibited messages.

How it Affects You

As a Constant Contact customer, you are already in compliance with much of the federal law, but there are a few things you need to be aware of going forward.

How You Already Comply

Constant Contact's terms and conditions require that your list is permission-based, which means that you already comply with the unsolicited email requirements stated in the law:

  • Your email header information is not misleading because it is set for you by Constant Contact.
  • Your email communications's "From" address is verified and already accurately identifies you as the sender
  • Constant Contact automatically includes the ability for your contacts to opt-out of future email communications
  • Constant Contact automatically processes unsubscribes from your email communications

What You Need to be Aware of Going Forward

  • Make sure that your email campaign's "Subject" line is straightforward, not misleading. The days of using cute phrases or tricks to boost open rates are over. The  recent Adteractive settlement reinforces the FTC's commitment to enforce this requirement.
  • If you aren't already doing so, any unsubscribe requests that come to you via a reply to your email must be honored within 10 days of the request.
  • Unsubscribe requests never expire. You must honor all opt-out requests indefinitely, regardless of future mailing platforms, unless you receive a new explicit opt-in request for that address.
  • You need to include a physical address in your email campaigns. Constant Contact requires that you add a physical address before you can schedule a campaign: make sure that this address is a valid physical postal address or PO Box for your organization.

Learn More:

To read the federal law, please visit http://www.ftc.gov/os/caselist/0723041/canspam.pdf.

For more information on the FTC's 2008 updates to the CAN-SPAM Act,  see " What do I need to know about the FTC's 2008 updates to CAN-SPAM?".

As always, we will keep you posted on the continuing changes in the email marketing industry. If you have specific questions about your organization, we recommend that you contact your attorney.

For more information, read Constant Contact's anti-spam policy.

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