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Is someone in your company breaking the law by spamming?

Are you aware of the types of emails that are going out on your company computers? Commercial emails are subject to laws enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.

You may have a high profile in your particular industry and be known for your integrity, but your good name may be in jeopardy if one of your employees is sending out spam emails in violation of the law.


A law that became effective in 2004, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, sets forth rules about the content contained in a commercial advertising piece sent by email. More specifically, it speaks to emails where the primary purpose is to advertise a commercial service or product, including content that appears on a website. Here are the main provisions of the Act:

  • It prohibits misleading or false header information
  • It  prohibits misleading subject lines
  • It requires that recipients receive a method to opt out of receiving further emails
  • It requires that the email be identified as an advertisement
  • It must give the valid physical address of the sender

Each violation carries a fine of up to $11,000 and possible jail time. While the FTC oversees your compliance with this law, the Department of Justice enforces the criminal sanctions.

Other problems for spammers

Further DOJ penalties can be levied on those who send commercial spam emails through your company computer without having authorization to use it; who provide false header information in multiple emails and initiate the sending of those messages; who falsely claim that they are the owners of multiple internet protocol addresses used to send the commercial spam emails; or who use a false identity to register for multiple domain names or email accounts.

Points to remember

A criminal defense attorney familiar with the penalties that commercial spamming practices can draw will tell you to take a good look at your company's email policies. Make sure that the people who receive your emails can identify them as advertisements, that they contain the company's physical address and that each one offers an opt-out provision.

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