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California adopts nation's toughest anti-spam bill.

"Spam, spam, spam, spam ..." that annoying jingle by the Monty Python comedy team has been used to label an equally irritating use of the Internet--the unsolicited e-mails that cram inboxes every day--advertising everything from diet aids to home mortgage discounts.

Many states have laws that fine spammers, but in September California adopted a measure with more teeth. The legislation by Senator Kevin Murray makes it illegal for marketers and their advertisers to e-mail Californians unless they have a prior business relationship or if a resident requests such mailings.

Fines are set at $1,000 for each unsolicited message and up to $1 million for blitz campaigns that send out thousands of unsolicited sale pitches. Murray said the California law was the first to hold the advertiser liable, as well as the spammer.

The senator said fines won't be that hard to collect since most on-line transactions are made with one of four internationally recognized credit cards based in the United States. He said it would be "relatively easy to locate the offender's bank account and attach it for the amount of the fine."

The law allows the state attorney general, Internet service providers and citizens to sue spam marketers and advertisers in civil court.

A spokesman for the direct-marketing industry warned the new law would not touch the "most notorious spam merchants, which are based outside the United States."

Thirty-five states have enacted laws regulating unsolicited commercial or bulk electronic mail advertising. Eighteen states enacted anti-spare legislation in 2003 alone; at least 30 considered bills.
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Title Annotation:On First Reading
Publication:State Legislatures
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Dec 1, 2003
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