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Maryland lawmakers pass antispam legislation

The law would make spamming a criminal offense, with penalties that could include up to 10 years of jail time.

Tech Industry
Maryland lawmakers passed new antispam legislation late Monday night, marking the first state to draft its own antispam laws since the federal Can-Spam Act was enacted.

The legislation, which still awaits the signature of Maryland's governor, would make spamming a criminal offense, with penalties that could include up to 10 years of jail time, asset forfeiture and fines up to $25,000.

Maryland's legislation makes it a criminal offense to knowingly use a person's computer to relay or retransmit multiple commercial e-mails with the intent to deceive or mislead recipients or Internet service providers (ISP) on the identity of the original sender of the message.

The legislation is designed to dovetail with the federal Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act, or Can-Spam. Under the federal law, spammers who falsify e-mail headers to mask an e-mailer's identity could face jail time. The law carries a penalty of one to five years in prison for severe cases.

America Online played a role in helping to draft Maryland's legislation, testifying before the state's general assembly while the bill was under consideration.

"This is a timely and much-needed new weapon in our ongoing effort to protect our members by canning the spam and by pursuing the main targets in the spam war--the kingpin spammers who use outrageous tactics to trick and deceive ISPs and online consumers," Curtis Lu, AOL's deputy general counsel, said in a statement. "This is yet another big step forward in the progress we are making state by state."

Ohio and Minnesota are currently considering spam legislation for their own states.

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