Individual Right to Sue

By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2003-07-10 Print this article Print

Individual Right to Sue The sticking point, however, may be in the right of citizens individually to sue spammers or to file class action suits, a right the Burr bill would not permit. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., questioned whether creating that right would unleash a torrent of litigation.
States generally are looking for a tough measure from Capitol Hill, but one that does not pre-empt any anti-spam laws they already have on their books. Paula Selis, senior counsel in the Washington State Attorney Generals office, opposed several provisions in the Burr bill, urging lawmakers not to restrict monetary damages or prohibit individual rights to sue.
Defending his bill, Burr said that no legislative measure could eliminate all spam, because some spammers will find ways to get around any measure that is passed. Recognizing that his initiative would not be perfect, Burr said the important thing is to get legislation passed. ISPs are lobbying hard for legislation, but not necessarily the strongest measures sought by consumer advocates. Representatives from EarthLink Inc. of Atlanta, America Online Inc. of Dulles, Va., and Microsoft Corp. of Redmond, Wash., all testified Wednesday to the need for a federal law, but only Ira Rubinstein, associate general counsel at Microsoft, said he supports both bills. Microsoft is also pushing Congress to set parameters within which industry could develop best practices and a "safe harbor" program to combat spam. The safe harbor program would reinforce the distinction between legitimate commercial e-mail and fraudulent e-mail and help improve the effectiveness of filters deployed by ISPs, Rubinstein said Wednesday. The specter of an imminent invasion of spam over mobile phones is not lost on lawmakers, and some are pressing to include wireless in the anti-spam legislation. "It is predictable that spam will migrate to wireless services," said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Wednesday. "It will be spam that follows you wherever you bring your phone. This is a future that is right around the corner unless we act."


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