A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Email Spam: CAN-SPAM & What constitutes spam?

I recently attended two business events where e-mail and spamming was brought up. There were brief discussions on what constitutes spam, but no resources for finding out more about the CAN-SPAM Laws were presented. Most attendees were small businesses new to the web, who understandably may not be aware of these laws, or know all of the rules.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a page on their site entitled: The CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business which includes a PDF which unfortunately does not work. I saw nothing but random ASCII characters rather than text and images. The page does have highlights of the act (I’ve quoted and paraphased a few below) and answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

At these events, I brought up the fact that meeting someone at a networking event, getting their business card, and adding them to your newsletter, is spam. Countless individuals do this all the time, even internet and marketing specialists who should know better. My own e-mail inbox is being run over by newsletters from people I met while networking to the point I miss some e-mails I really want. An individual must consent to receiving your newsletter by signing up online whether it’s through a registration form on your website or consent from you asking them if they would like to receive your newsletter when you send a followup e-mail (I hope you do this, but that’s another blog post). You can also use the trusty pen and paper sign-up sheet many people use at their tradeshow booths. Just don’t lose them. Violations to the CAN-SPAM Act are by a per-email address basis. If you send out one e-mail to 100 different people, you have 100 violations.

Highlights from the FTC CAN-SPAM Act:

This list isn’t conclusive, so make sure to read more about what you must do to make your e-mails legal and what you can’t do because it’s considered spam.

  • Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address.
  • Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. This can be some or all e-mails if you have more than one newsletter.
  • Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
  • Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.

The FCC has a page discussing spam on wireless devices including text messages and e-mails and has a 4 page PDF you can download and print at the bottom of the page as well.

If you care to read the actual CAN-SPAM U.S. Code you can find it here:

If you use a service (such as Constant Contact) for your e-mail marketing you can find information about spam on their sites as well.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email