Bush set to OK spam bill - but critics not convinced

Tuesday, 16 December 2003, 3:46 PM EST

President Bush is expected to sign the "CAN-SPAM" bill Tuesday, creating the first federal law regulating spam, a move backers say would be a major step in the war against e-mail solicitations for pornography, Viagra, diet pills, get-rich-quick schemes and the like.

But critics scoff that e-mail users would be unlikely to see a decline in the volume of junk in their in-boxes as a result of the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act, which would kick in on New Year's Day.

Congress overwhelmingly approved the legislation earlier this month, after more than six years of unsuccessful attempts to enact a law to interrupt the flood of commercial e-mail.

With Bush's signature, a complex set of rules would take effect Jan. 1, 2004, that would govern how companies may communicate with customers they already know and with people they don't. Falsified e-mail headers could be punished with prison terms, as could sending "sexually oriented" e-mail that is not properly labeled. The Federal Trade Commission would receive new enforcement authority and could choose to set up a "do not e-mail" list akin to the commission's wildly popular National Do Not Call registry.

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