Internet, May 9, 1997--The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (CAUCE) announced today that it is calling for a legal ban on unsolicited Email advertising. CAUCE has drafted an amendment to the federal law that bans unsolicited fax advertisements, to extend it to cover unsolicited Email advertising on the same terms. The proposal would give Email users control of the kinds of advertising they are willing to accept in their mailboxes, whether they prefer to shut it off completely, or ask for more.
The junk fax law (more formally, portions of 47 USC 227), provides that businesses may offer goods and services in fax messages only if the recipient has asked for the information or has a previous business relationship with the company. Recipients may ask to be taken off mailing lists at any time. Violation can result in a civil penalty of $500 per message, or more in the case of clearly willful violation or failure to provide a valid return fax number. Extending the same terms to Email should work equally well, according to CAUCE.
The arguments against junk Email and junk fax are very similar. Cost shifting to the recipient and denial of service are two of the most important. For example, many Email users and mailing lists have a daily limit on traffic, so UCE can displace other traffic and prevent it getting through.
"Starting from an existing law has several important advantages," said CAUCE co-founder Edward Cherlin. "We have a law that has worked well, that covers a very similar problem, and that has passed a constitutional challenge in court. The only thing really wrong with the junk fax law from our point of view is that so few people know it exists, so junk fax still continues on a small scale. That makes education the number two priority for us, behind getting the law passed."
The CAUCE Web site at http://www.cauce.org is an important part of the organization's education campaign. It offers information about UCE and the proposed amendment, a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page, and a sign-up page where visitors can join CAUCE to receive a newsletter on Spam issues, or register their support for the proposal. Electronic signatures will be sorted and delivered to the appropriate Senators and Representatives.
The site also explains why other proposed solutions to UCE don't work, and how UCE harms other businesses. Because of UCE, many people are unwilling to deal with any online business. In particular it is impossible to create anything like a complete Internet Email directory service, since it would be used to generate mailing lists.
"We're not against commerce on-line. We're just against paying to receive junk mail. It's time-consuming to deal with, and it's incredibly costly - a cost which has to be passed on by the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to their subscribers." said CAUCE member John Mozena.
The Coalition Against UCE (Unsolicited Commercial Email) was founded by Scott Hazen Mueller, Vice President for Engineering for Whole Earth Networks, Edward Cherlin, Vice President for Business Development of NewbieNet, a free educational service for novice Internet users, and Doug Muth, a UNIX system administrator. The lobbying effort in Washington is led by Ray Everett-Church, a contractor with various ISPs on computer security issues.
For more information on the Coalition and its lobbying efforts, visit its Web home page at http://www.cauce.org. The CAUCE Web site explains the Spam problem, gives the text of the current law prohibiting junk faxes and the proposed amendment, and answers common questions about the proposal.
More information on UCE, or "spam", can be found at http://spam.abuse.net/spam. The current text of 47 USC 227 is available at http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/47/227.html.
More information on CAUCE can be found at http://www.cauce.org.
For more information on the coalition and its lobbying efforts,
Scott Hazen Mueller
Phone: (415) 281 6550 x269
Phone: (916) 938-4684