Bad Bill or No Bill: The Texas Spam Dilemma

The bill is House Bill 1282, with companion legislation Senate Bill 698. The main provisions are a prohibition on forged headers, subject labeling (ADV: tag) on unsolicited commercial email, and opt-out provisions. There are, however, a number of issues that will prevent this from being effective.

The bill requires that spammers offer you a working opt-out address, but allows them up to 90 days to process your opt-out request. That's not consumer protection, that's a business model. Spammers can setup shop, ignore opt-out requests, spam away for three months, and then close down and transfer everything to a new business. This 90 day provision is effectively a "get out of jail free" card for spammers, that turns a marginal scam into a protected business.

The bill provides for the right of individual action, which is good. One of the reasons why the Federal junk fax law has been so effective is that it provides the recipient of a junk fax the right to go to court and collect up to $500. The bad news is that the limit set in this law is ludicrously low. If you nab a spammer, you'll probably collect $10 for your efforts.

Moreover, when you bring action, you are required to report this to the Attorney General's office. Failure to do so is a $200 penalty. So, you could conceivably bring suit, win, and end up $190 in the hole for your trouble. Oh yeah, that's really going to help discourage spammers.

As the bill currently reads, there is a ADV: labeling requirement for regular spam and ADULT-ADVERTISEMENT labeling required for porno spam. This means that people who are setup to filter on ADV: are going to end up throwing away everything but the porno spam. Moreover, this requirement conflicts with most every other state law on the books. Changing the label to ADV:ADLT would remedy both those problems.

The bill seems to be more concerned with protecting the spam sender than the consumer. Unless these problems are remedied, this bill should be discarded like a bad spam message.

The bill has already sailed through its House hearing with unanimous approval. Tuesday morning it goes to the Senate Business and Commerce committee. The problem is this all has happened with input from Microsoft and AOL, and no discussion with Texas ISP managers and users. I think some of us need to show up to the hearing and let them know this is not a good deal for Texas Internet users.

Comments

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re: Bad Bill or No Bill: The Texas Spam Dilemma

What is your opinion of the federal "reduce spam act"? It seems quite a bit stronger than what you describe about the Texas bill.

re: Bad Bill or No Bill: The Texas Spam Dilemma

Jeremy - I haven't examined the language of any of the recent federal anti-spam bills, so I don't feel comfortable commenting on them. I have previously, however, offered a general critique that lays out my concerns with Larry's approach.

re: Bad Bill or No Bill: The Texas Spam Dilemma

If this bill goes through, SPAM would be legal..and our company would have even more customers...so why am I against the bill? Because it's a bad bill that needs to be stopped.

(note: typo edited by chip)