Law Puts Bluster Ahead of Bite ...

By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2003-10-06

Californias anti-spam law, which enables residents, the state attorney general and ISPs to seek civil damages from spammers, will undoubtedly spark lawsuits and perhaps even legal victories.

However, although California Senate Bill 186: Restrictions On Unsolicited Commercial E-mail Advertisers will likely catch some culprits, legislators will be outwitted by spammers who are motivated by the huge return on investment that they enjoy from bulk commercial e-mail.

The new law is filled with loopholes for what Ill call legitimate businesses (for example, established insurance companies, banks and e-mail providers such as Microsofts Hotmail) and plenty of potential legal stumbling blocks.

Under the California law, Hotmail and other businesses can spam free e-mail users to their hearts content.

As for legal stumbling blocks, Im especially fond of the definition of a California e-mail address. Among other conditions, this can be "an e-mail address ordinarily accessed from a computer located in the state." Good luck pinning that down in court.

Technology, and a healthy dose of cost-shifting to the recipient, is what makes spam appealing. Anti-spam technology that keeps up with the spammers is what will take it down. In the case of the anti-spam battle, legislation will likely prove too slow to adequately counter the fast-moving world of spam.

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