A Flurry of CAN-SPAM Activity — But Is It Meaningful?

Posted by Matt Blumberg on

Matt Blumberg
By Matt Blumberg
CEO & Chairman

Our four-year old oft maligned anti-spam legislation in this country, the CAN-SPAM act, has seen an uptick of activity this past week. 

Melinda Krueger sums up the sentiments of many in the anti-spam community in her Email Insider column today when she says,

“There is no provision in the act against sending unsolicited email as long as you comply with the rest of the act. The motivation of the act was more to make voters feel politicians were doing something about
this annoying problem.”

In the last two days, however, we got news of ValueClick’s $2.9 million settlement with the FTC over a CAN-SPAM violation (the largest ever), as well as notorious hardcore spammer Robert Soloway pleading guilty on a variety of charges for Really Bad Things, probably including spamming (I’ve read differing reports of his plea, some of which include the CAN-SPAM violation, and some of which don’t).

I’ve never felt that CAN-SPAM did all that much to stop sneaky practices.  It has loopholes so large you can drive a semi through it.  People joke that the law means, "yes, you CAN spam."  Yet, the law does seem to be doing at least a little of what it was intended to do, which is give the federal government the teeth to go after the bad guys. 

Soloway undoubtedly is a bad guy.  ValueClick may or may not be a bad guy, depending on who you talk to.  But, weak as the law may be, public fines and convictions for violations of CAN-SPAM will ultimately start to impact both the black hats and the grey hats.  Let’s just hope the feds keep up their enforcement work!


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About Matt Blumberg

Matt Blumberg founded Return Path in 1999 because he believed the world needed email to work better. Matt is passionate about enhancing the online relationship between email subscribers and marketers so that both sides of the equation benefit. It is with great pride that he has watched this initial creation grow to a company of more than 400 employees with the market leading brand, innovative products, and the email industry’s most renowned experts. Before Return Path, Matt ran marketing, product management, and the internet group for MovieFone, Inc. (later acquired by AOL). Prior to that he served as an associate with private equity firm General Atlantic Partners and was a consultant with Mercer Management Consulting. He holds a B.A. from Princeton University. You can learn much more about Matt by reading his email marketing and entrepreneurship blog Only Once – one of the first CEO blogs on the Internet. Last year he wrote a book, Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business.

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