WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives begins its Passion play Tuesday to convince voters it is earnest about passing anti-spam legislation before the end of the year. Neither the House nor the Senate has ever passed a federal law dealing with spam, instead hoping that technological solutions or industry standards could be found before the government had to step in and regulate.
The same sentiment has long been held by business interests eager to limit federal regulation of online consumer privacy, marketing and e-mail. But increasingly louder consumer demands for action seem to be prompting lawmakers to now want to swiftly deal with the issue.
Even the powerful Direct Marketing Association, heretofore an implacable foe of anti-spam measures and a generous contributor to campaign funds, has reluctantly endorsed the idea of federal regulation.
Hopeful congressional staff members in both chambers are betting an anti-spam bill of some sort will be on President Bush’s desk this year.
The Senate was the first out of the box. In mid-June, the Senate Commerce Committee passed a measure known as the Can Spam Act (S. 877), which requires that commercial e-mailers use header identification stating the message is an advertisement or solicitation and provide consumers with opt-out provisions.
It also mandates that commercial bulk e-mailers must use an accurate return address and include the physical location of the sender. Under the enforcement terms of the bill, spammers who use false headers or misleading subject lines could face up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $1 million.
Tuesday morning, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R.-La.) will open the House’s anti-spam campaign when he presents his Rid Spam Act (H.R. 2214) to the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.
The legislation closely tracks the provisions of the Senate’s Can Spam Act and is sure to be warmly received since its co-sponsor is Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R.-Wisc.).
On Wednesday, two subcommittees of Tauzin’s Energy and Commerce Committee will meet to review all the current anti-spam proposals before Congress including the Tauzin-Sensenbrenner legislation.