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Antispammers slam first spam law

The Nevada state legislature has signed the first law of the land on spam, or unsolicited junk email, but critics say the law is somewhat weak.

The Nevada state legislature has signed the first law of the land on spam, or unsolicited junk email.

Sponsored by state Senator William Raggio, who is also the Republican majority leader, the spam bill was introduced last January and overwhelmingly approved.

The law requires that mass emailers offer a procedure for recipients to remove themselves from mailing lists and that senders use their correct business names, but it imposes no penalty for spammers who fail to comply.

Antispam activists feel that because of the Direct Marketing Organization's (DMA) lobbying efforts, the legislation has been significantly weakened.

David Kramer, an attorney for Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati, who has represented Internet providers in suits against notorious spammer Cyber Promotions and helped to draft the original version of the bill, was disappointed by the law that was signed.

"The law is worse than if there was no legislation whatsoever," Kramer said. "It legitimizes the practice...that undermines the very value that is inherent in email."

Ray Everett-Church, a lobbyist for the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (CAUCE), also feels strongly that the final version of the bill was more for, than against, spam. Although CAUCE has lobbied behind other legislative efforts to stop spam, it has come out against Nevada's law.

"Just before the final passage through the state assembly, the DMA got a hold of it and lobbied to create a very low threshold for legitimizing junk email," Everett-Church said today.

Everett-Church, Kramer, and antispam advocates are worried that the law does nothing to prevent mass emailers from demanding payment to take names off mailing lists.

Because the Nevada legislature is currently not in session, Raggio was unavailable to comment.

Nationally, two bills have been introduced attempting to reduce junk email. Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) has sponsored legislation expanding the scope of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. That law, which currently prohibits unsolicited commercial faxes, would be extended to cover junk email.

Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) has also introduced the Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail Choice Act, which would not prohibit spam but would require senders to label emails as advertisements.