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On May 12, 2008, the Federal Trade Commission announced approval of four new rule provisions under the CAN-SPAM Act (the "Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003"). The provisions were intended to clarify the Act's requirements.
The new rule provisions address four topics:
- (1) an e-mail recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her e-mail address and opt-out preferences, or take any steps other than sending a reply e-mail message or visiting a single Internet Web page to opt out of receiving future e-mail from a sender;
- (2) the definition of "sender" was modified to make it easier to determine which of multiple parties advertising in a single e-mail message is responsible for complying with the Act's opt-out requirements;
- (3) a "sender" of commercial e-mail can include an accurately-registered post office box or private mailbox established under United States Postal Service regulations to satisfy the Act's requirement that a commercial e-mail display a "valid physical postal address"; and
- (4) a definition of the term "person" was added to clarify that CAN-SPAM's obligations are not limited to natural persons.
In addition, the Commission's Statement of Basis and Purpose (SBP) accompanying the final rule also addresses a number of topics that are not the subject of any new rule provisions. These include: CAN-SPAM's definition of "transactional or relationship message"; the Commission's decision not to alter the length of time a "sender" of commercial e-mail has to honor an opt-out request; the Commission's determination not to designate additional "aggravated violations" under the Act; and the Commission's views on how CAN-SPAM applies to forward-to-a-"friend" e-mail marketing campaigns, in which someone either receives a commercial e-mail message and forwards the e-mail to another person, or uses a Web-based mechanism to forward a link to or copy of a Web page to another person. The SBP explains that, as a general matter, if the seller offers something of value in exchange for forwarding a commercial message, the seller must comply with the Act's requirements, such as honoring opt-out requests.
The new rule provisions and SBP are a follow-up to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on these and other CAN-SPAM topics that the Commission published on May 12, 2005 and March 11, 2004, respectively. The Commission received 152 comments and suggestions on the NPRM and 13,517 comments and suggestions on the ANPR from representatives of a broad spectrum of the online commerce industry, trade associations, individual consumers, and consumer and privacy advocates. The new rule provisions and SBP were based on those comments and suggestions as well as the Commission's law enforcement experience.