Federal Internet Law & Policy
An Educational Project

Email: SPAM

Dont be a FOOL; The Law is Not DIY

Pop quiz! When was the first reported SPAM? Clearly an issue of mythology - according to one story, it was purportedly in 1978 when an aspiring salesman posted an advertisement for a new DEC computer to Arpanet bulletin boards. Where does the nickname “SPAM” come from? Leading mythologians suggest that it comes from a Monty Python skit where the actors inanely repeat the phrase “SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM.” Who might sue you for misuse of a trademark for calling unwanted email, “SPAM.” Hormel - with their fine selection of canned meats - but Hormel is apparently far less apoplectic about the use of its trademark then once rumored.

As the wonders of SPAM has grown, taking governmental action to protect innocent email boxes has come to be a new political mandate. After approximately 25 legislative attempts dating back to 1997, Congress finally came up with a proposal that made it through the filters. On January 1, 2004, the CAN SPAM Act went into effect.


SPAM is legal, but

  • Don’t falsify the Header.
  • Provide the opportunity to opt-out.
  • Make clear that it is commercial email and make clear if it has sexual content.
  • Bad guys can be slammed by DOJ and the FTC, by a bunch of other government agencies, and by ISPs. Bad guys cannot be slammed by individuals.


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