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How To Prevent Being Lynched By Heavy Handed Spam Laws
By: Developer Shed
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    How To Prevent Being Lynched By Heavy Handed Spam Laws
    by Dan B. Cauthron

    California's new heavy handed spam law, slated to take
    effect on 1 January 2004, not only provides stiff fines PER
    SPAM EMAIL sent. It also opens the doors wide for civil
    litigation against a spammer, and gross amounts of cash
    recovery for "damages" done to the recipient. In a society
    that is already embroiled in lawsuit frenzy, this law
    appears to be a ticket to instant riches for any California
    resident that owns an email account.

    The term "spam" of course, refers to unwanted commercial
    e-mail that clogs millions of computer mailboxes every day.
    The Internet culture's current mindset toward spam is so
    near to reaching critical mass, it's akin to that of a
    rabid and out of control lynch mob in old Tombstone - to
    put it succinctly, "shucks, let's hang somebody."

    While 30 or so states in the US now have anti-spam laws on
    the books, most of them are difficult to enforce against
    real spammers (the ones who send multi-millions of emails
    at a whack, hawking this week's special snake oil.) Those
    people often are located outside US borders, and are about
    as easy to track down as a ghost.

    It's my prognostication that few if any real spammers will
    be lynched. The people who are most likely to be harmed are
    legitimate businesses who participate openly in electronic
    marketing, conducting their affairs above board with real
    addresses and real phone numbers.

    Small emarketers who derive part or all of their income
    from email marketing, and have worked to develop their own
    opt-in emailing list, appear to be the ones who are most
    vulnerable to aggressive anti-spam laws.

    The fact is this: Sooner or later, some list member will
    "forget" that s/he opted-in, and will inevitably scream SPAM
    at the top of their lungs. With the prospect for major
    remuneration under the California law, there undoubtedly
    will be those who suddenly contract a case of chronic
    "opt-in amnesia." Managing the most valid opt-in emailing
    list in the Universe is about to become even more taxing.

    What To Do?

    1. - Develop an iron-clad opt-in agreement that the new
    subscriber must read and electronically agree to (via a
    radio button, checkbox, etc.) before s/he is presented with
    your opt-in form.

    2. - Rigorously use a double opt-in subscription process,
    where the first message the new subscriber receives will
    require them to "confirm" the voluntary status of their
    opt-in action. It's likely that this process will reduce
    somewhat the number of new subscribers who make it all the
    way to your opt-in list. Still, you'll wind up with a
    higher quality list, containing subscribers who are serious
    about reading your emails.

    3. - Email any existing lists you have, explaining that you
    are cleaning your lists, and asking those subscribers to
    re-subscribe under your new policy. (Offer them something
    good in return for their trouble.) You may lose some
    subscribers, but those are probably the ones who never paid
    attention to your mailings to begin with, and are most
    likely to suddenly contract "amnesia."

    4. - Retain electronic confirmations of all opt-in actions.
    It would be wise to save those records externally to disk
    on a daily basis.

    5. - Provide an automated removal link in all emails sent.
    A "reply to this email for removal" or "email this address
    for removal" statement may not be sufficient in the near

    7. - Sign all messages you send, top and bottom, with your
    full name and email address. Keeping your name in front of
    your subscribers will greatly improve their ability to
    recall their voluntary opt-in action.

    8. - Be sure your email subject line relates directly to
    the context of your message body. This is a prominent
    clause in most current spam laws.

    9. - Use only a valid and working return address for any
    email sent. The recipient must be able to reach you (or a
    member of your staff) by clicking the reply button to any
    email received.

    While I don't appreciate being spammed, I've also learned
    to quietly use the technology available to me, ie. email
    filters and delete buttons. Still, it won't surprise me in
    the least to soon hear of some guy who has filed a million
    dollar lawsuit because he contracted carpal tunnel syndrome
    in his "delete" finger.

    Blind and uninformed legislation appears to be laying a
    foundation for just such a frivolous boondoggle, as slick
    legislators continue to jump on the bandwagon, "taking
    action" on popular social issues as a self-serving exercise
    in ensuring their own re-elections.

    What I fear most however, is a terminally diseased social
    consciousness that refuses to take individual
    responsibility, while expecting big government to be a
    panacea for all ills, no matter how small or insignificant.
    Dan B. Cauthron runs several websites and publishes his 100%
    original and highly opinionated *Revenew QuikTips* online
    whenever he has something significant to say. To subscribe
    please visit: Dan also operates:
    Copyright 2003 - All Rights Reserved Worldwide
    Serenity Marketing Group - Dan B. Cauthron
    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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