* Three Tips for Can-Spam Compliance
By Brian Howard, senior editor, Target Marketing Inside Direct Mail
Now that the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 is a reality, e-mail marketers must step to a new beat. The full text of the new law can be found at www.spamlaws.com/federal/108s877.html. It's a long document, but one any responsible e-mail marketer should read carefully.
In the January 2004 edition of his monthly e-mail publication The Levison Letter, veteran copywriter Ivan Levison offers, while disclaiming that he's not a lawyer, some tips for e-mail marketers who wish to stay in compliance with CAN-SPAM.
1. "Your 'Subject' line can't be misleading," says Levison. According to CAN-SPAM, you are in violation of the law if your subject line would be likely to mislead a recipient, acting reasonably and under normal circumstances, about the content of a message.
2. "Under CAN-SPAM," says Levison, "the true identity and physical postal address of the advertiser has to be provided." Anonymity is illegal, unless "the recipient has given prior affirmative consent to receipt of the message."
3. "You have to provide a way for prospects to opt out if they don't want to get future mailings," offers Levison. Furthermore, this "functioning return electronic mail address or other functioning Internet-based mechanism" must be "clearly and conspicuously displayed."
To get your own copy of the Levison Letter, visit here.
Spam stoppers: CNET reviews your Delete-button alternatives
Don't get mad, get even
You say you've had all the spam you can stomach? Don't just sit there pressing the Delete key; there are plenty of other ways to fight back. Once you've employed spam-blocking apps, such as SpamKiller and SpamCop, you can take a few more steps to turn up the heat on spammers. Here's how.
Rat 'em out
Most ISPs publish acceptable-use policies that ban spamming. When you get a piece of spam, forward it to your ISPs spam department--the Network Abuse Clearinghouse can usually provide the right address (generally, firstname.lastname@example.org). Next, locate the spammer's ISP--or use a product such as SpamKiller, which will find it for you--and forward a copy of the spam to that service provider. After enough complaints, most ISPs shut down the spammer or block mail coming from the spam address.
Contact the local authorities
About two dozen states have passed antispam laws banning everything from false subject lines to porn ads. Find out if the spammer has broken the law in your state and forward the message to your state attorney general's office.
Call in the feds
If the spam contains a misleading or deceptive claim--and what spam doesn't?--the Federal Trade Commission would like to hear about it. You can add to the FTC's database of 9 million-plus spams by sending it here. The FTC has prosecuted 40 cases so far, but they're waiting for authority from Congress to do more. Complaining won't result in immediate action, but it certainly can't hurt.
The Net features dozens of blacklists, collections of IP addresses that spammers use to distribute mail. You can find a directory of blacklists here. Many ISPs and services such as SpamCop use blacklists to block spam before it reaches your in-box. Some blacklists take nominations; usually, you have to send the full headers of a spam message to them, and they do the rest. Report spam to SpamCop's blacklist here (you'll have to register first). You can also expose spammers on the Arbitrary Blackhole List.
Hunt them down
Some spammers cover their tracks fairly well, while others are too stupid or lazy to care. SamSpade offers several free tools for tracking spammers' whereabouts, including the ability to decipher encoded URLs, trace the route the message took on its way to your in-box, and look up a domain owner's name and address. Spamhaus runs the Register of Known Spam Operations, which contains a wealth of information on leading spammers, including some mug shots and home addresses. Once you identify the culprit, complain to his or her ISP and give yourself a pat on the back for doing your part to stop these scumbags.
Take 'em for every red cent
Some states offer a private right of action against spam; in other words, these states let you sue spammers if they break the law. Last December, Net free-speech activist Bennett Haselton won $2,000 in a case against four spammers in Washington. For more information on spam suits, visit the SpamCon Foundation Law Center.
Some antispam sites offer more insidious forms of payback, such as leaving long-winded messages at the 800 numbers listed in spam mail, since the owner of the number must pay for each call. For more ideas on how to get even, check out the frighteningly thorough Death to Spam page from Alchemy Mindworks.