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Monday, August 04, 2003

Volume 2 Number 31
August 4, 2003 Page 860
ISSN 1538-3431


Burns Expects Anti-Spam Legislation
To Move to Senate Floor in September

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) told reporters July 30 that he expects his anti-spam bill (S. 877) to go to the Senate floor in September without substantial changes.
Burns said the main hurdle will be completing negotiations with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to strengthen criminal penalties in the bill.

"That's about the only obstacle we have," he said during a telephone conference with reporters.

Still, Burns said he did not expect many changes in the bill, and he looked forward to seeing it move as soon as the Senate returns from summer recess.

"We've got to take it to the floor," said Burns, who chairs a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. "It's got to be passed in September."

A bill introduced by Hatch (S. 1293) would subject violators to up to five years imprisonment. Burns' measure, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), currently provides up to one year of jail time.

Hatch has yet to act on his bill, which is focused mainly on setting criminal penalties for egregious spammers. The Burns-Wyden bill, which includes rules for legitimate e-mail marketers, is much closer to a Senate vote. The Commerce Committee approved the bill June 19 (2 PVLR 682, 6/23/03 ). During markup, Burns and Wyden promised to toughen the bill as it reached the Senate floor, but they have not yet offered details on how they would do that.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) is among those on the committee who are pushing for a stronger bill. Nelson has introduced a measure (S. 1052) that would make spamming a felony crime under existing federal racketeering legislation.

Burns Rejects 'Do-Not-Spam List.'

A proposal by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) could be another focus of debate.
Schumer has introduced a bill (S. 1231) that would create a do-not-spam registry, similar to the do-not-call list for telemarketers that was launched by the Federal Trade Commission in June.

While Schumer's bill appears to be gaining support among consumers, it has only one Senate backer. Despite that, Schumer has said he plans to introduce the legislation as a floor amendment.

Burns flatly rejected the proposal during his phone conference with reporters.

"Right now, we can't accept that," he said.

The Burns-Wyden bill, as approved by the Commerce Committee, would direct the FTC to study the effectiveness of a do-not-spam list.

So far, members of the commission, including FTC Chairman Timothy Muris, have raised concerns about the idea of creating such a list (see related report in this section ).

The Burns-Wyden bill would allow individuals to send unsolicited commercial e-mail messages as long as they follow certain rules, such as providing a mechanism for individuals to opt out of receiving future messages. The legislation is supported by a number of industry groups, including the Direct Marketing Association.

Besides creating a do-not-spam list, Schumer's bill would provide a private right of action for individuals, another feature that has made it popular with consumers. The Burns-Wyden bill would only allow the government and Internet service providers to go after spammers.

Copyright © 2003 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.

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