New Jersey Joins Can-Spam Movement

Suggesting that the federal Can-Spam Act of 2003 doesn’t pack a big enough punch to curtail electronic mail spam, state lawmakers around the country are creating their own regionalized antispam laws. The New Jersey legislature is the most recent to join the movement to toughen antispam regulations.

The two-tiered legislature in New Jersey has bills pending in both the senate and the assembly. The senate introduced a can-spam bill February 9th. This week, an assembly committee approved a similar version of that bill. Lawmakers hope to have a final vote and the governor’s signature by year’s end.

The New Jersey version of the antispam law packs a punch that federal legislators and most other state antispam laws have failed to include. The New Jersey antispam bill subjects spammers to tough civil and criminal penalties. In a one-two punch approach, the proposed law would subject the biggest offenders to jail time.

Modeled After Tough Virginia Law

The sponsor of the senate bill, New Jersey state senator Joseph Coniglio (D), used a similar bill passed in Virginia for New Jersey’s antispam law.

“In April of last year, I became aware that Virginia had passed one of the toughest antispam bills in the country. I immediately became interested in bringing a similar statute to New Jersey and that tough legislation became the model for the bill I have sponsored (S-1037),” Coniglio told TechNewsWorld.

He said that the Virginia bill also became the impetus for the federal Can-Spam Act of 2003, noting that there are a fair amount of similarities between the two. But Coniglio sees a need to provide more protection for New Jersey residents.

Coniglio said the regional approach being taken by New Jersey will create additional avenues for prosecutions to eradicate the spam problem.

“The passage of the New Jersey bill would allow us to utilize additional resources in this fight. Experts have agreed that a multipronged approach on this issue has the best chance for real success. In the case of this S-1037, the New Jersey state courts would add a strong complimentary enforcement mechanism to any federal government action,” Coniglio said.

Regional Control Getting Strong Support

The idea of New Jersey beefing up the existing federal antispam law is receiving popular support. It is quite common to hear municipal as well as state officials complain about how bad spam is getting. In this densely populated, tiny state nestled on the Atlantic coastline, officials and residents alike find their business and personal inboxes filled with increasing amounts of pornography and get-rich-quick schemes.

The proposed new law this week was praised by several of the largest telecommunications companies. An AT&T report to the state assembly’s telecommunications and utilities committee cited research showing that the average employee gets nearly 8,000 spam messages annually. That puts the cost of spam at more than US$1,900 per employee per year.

Coniglio, the New Jersey Spam Control Act sponsor in the senate, is confident this bill, in conjunction with the federal legislation, will have a positive impact on New Jersey’s residents.

“Of course, international spam will continue to present a problem of enforcement,” said Coniglio. “I even understand that Tim Muris, chairman of the FTC, has mentioned that overseas spam poses a serious problem in their implementation of the federal legislation. It seems that with the speed of technology and the international span of the Internet, there will continue to be other challenges ahead on this issue. My goal is to continue looking for resources within the state that will protect New Jersey residents from spam,” he said.

Spam Control Bill Highlights

Besides giving New Jersey’s state attorney general the power to enforce the tough antispam rules, this new law also would grant private citizens and ISPs the ability to file suit against perpetrators of fraudulent e-mails, according to the bill’s sponsor.

The proposed New Jersey Spam Control Act would give law enforcement authorities the ability to seize money, computers, software and other personal property of those convicted of transmitting spam.

The new regulations target those who knowingly transmit multiple commercial e-mail messages and try to hide their identity. It also targets offenders who falsify the subject line of an e-mail message to further conceal the sender or the purpose of the content.

The Assembly version of the bill includes a provision to help consumers recover financial damages from the spammer. The bill provides, in lieu of actual damages, a payment equal to either $10 for each commercial message transmitted in violation of the law or $25,000 per day for each day the violation occurs, whichever is less.

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