Many online businesses use e-mail as an advertising and marketing tool because of the potentially vast reach it has and the very inexpensive cost of sending e-mail. Some e-mail used for these purposes is targeted to a specific group of consumers who have requested such useful information. However, an ever-growing amount of commercial e-mail is unsolicited, bulk e-mail sent en masse. This latter type is often referred to as “spam.” One commentator from Spam.abuse.net cites several reasons for the maligning of spam: the receiver pays more in aggravation than the sender does in time and money; as spam grows, it will crowd out mailboxes and render them unusable; many spammers send their junk e-mail via innocent intermediate systems to avoid filters; spam clogs providers’ systems; spam messages are nearly exclusively worthless, deceptive, and partially or totally fraudulent; and some spam may be illegal.
While the annoyance of having an e-mail inbox filled to the virtual brim with these clogging and often useless solicitations has raised the ire of millions of e-mail users, it apparently has not touched the federal legislators enough for them to enact federal laws directly pertaining to it. Several Federal laws were pending at the time of this writing in the 107th Congress, including the Anti-Spamming Act of 2001 (H.R. 718), Anti-Spamming Act of 2001 (H.R. 1017), Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN SPAM) Act of 2001 (S. 630), Netizens Protection Act of 2001 (H.R. 3146), Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail Act of 2001 (H.R. 95), and Wireless Telephone Spam Protection Act (H.R. 113). However, as discussed below, many states have enacted legislation regulating unsolicited e-mails.
Therefore, although spamming is generally not in violation of any federal laws at this time, it may soon be and is considered an extremely poor, if not unethical and despicable, business practice. Any business that wishes to use targeted, solicited e-mail as an advertising tool should be careful to steer clear of sending bulk, unsolicited advertising to unwitting recipients because doing so may tarnish its reputation and run afoul of the many state laws on the subject, as discussed below.