Ohio Governor Signs Anti-Spam Law

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The cost of violating anti-spam laws is rising. When the State of Illinois passed its anti-spam law in 1999, it provided for a fine of $10 per instance, up to a total of $25,000 per day, for spammers who continued to send spam after receiving a desist request. That law went into effect on January 1, 2000, according to spamlaws.com.

On Thursday, August 1, 2002, Ohio's Governor Bob Taft signed into law the Ohio Senate Bill 8, sponsored by state Senator Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster). It allows e-mail recipients to sue for $100 per e-mail, up to $50,000, plus attorney's fees, court costs, and other expenses. The bill will go into effect 90 days after it is placed in state records, probably on October 31, 2002.

The law also allows ISPs to sue. It actually allows "an electronic mail service provider whose authority or policy has been contravened" to sue as long as it has posted its polices. The law says, "notice of these policies shall be deemed sufficient if an electronic mail service provider maintains an easily accessible web page containing its policies regarding electronic mail advertisements and can demonstrate that notice was supplied via electronic means between the sending and receiving computers."

The law provides for damages up to $50,000 for accidental violations, and up to $500,000 for "willful or knowing" violations.

"This bill will allow service providers to go after hardcore spammers," said Senator Amstutz. "These e-mails often involve get-rich-quick schemes, pornography, and other undesirable messages that frustrate consumers and invade their privacy. Ohio is taking an approach similar to that of 17 other states to give our consumers additional tools to protect themselves."

However, spam law cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute because most of the evidence is easy to destroy, because spam businesses usually operate under false names, and because spam messages are usually sent with altered or fake headers. Spammers are difficult to identify and frequently fail to show up in court.

For example, TidBITS, a service for Macintosh users, leveraged spam laws in Washington to shut down and sue a spam business. After winning its case when the defendant failed to show up in court, TidBITS attempted to collect damages. But this proved to be more costly than collections—the lawsuit cost TidBITS $3,000 and damages were never collected.

Nevertheless, the Ohio law is a positive action in the war on spam, and the scams that often ride it. If you're wondering why your state does not have an anti-spam law that is as ISP-aware as Ohio's, look no farther than your local ISP association. The Ohio Internet Service Providers Association (OISPA) claims 72 ISP members.

This article was originally published by sister site, ISP-Planet.

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