Summary of
Anti-Spam Bills
in the 106th Congress

This page summarizes the following bills:

This page was last updated on June 21, 1999.

Introduction. S 759, HR 1910, and HR 2162 deal solely with spam, or unsolicited bulk e-mail. HR 1685 and HR 1686 are broad Internet related bills that include provisions pertaining to spam. S 759 allows anyone, including ISPs, to "opt out" of receiving spam. It then allows the FTC, state governments, and ISPs, but not the spammed individuals, to bring suit for damages and injunctive relief. HR 1910 is similar to S 759 to the extent that it also contains the "opt out" approach. However, it does allow individuals to sue. However, HR 1910 also contains much more. It bans both the use of false routing information and the software that generates it. It allows the ISPs and EMSPs to sue. It also contains some criminal bans.

HR 1685 and HR 2162 contain similar provisions which ban bulk e-mailers from violating electronic mail service providers' (EMSPs') posted policies regarding unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE). Both would also amend 18 USC 1030 to crimilize the using false routing information, and the software which creates false routing information. HR 1686 contains the same amendments to 18 USC 1030 that are in HR 1685.

S 759, Inbox Privacy Act of 1999

Sponsor. Frank Murkowski (R-AK). Cosponsors: Bob Torricelli (D-NJ), Conrad Burns (R-MT), Harry Reid (D-NV), Richard Durbin (D-IL)

Summary. S 759 IS would regulate the transmission of unsolicited commercial e-mail, also know as "UCE" or "spam." By definition, the bill only affects mail whose "primary purpose is to initiate a commercial transaction." Hence, non-commercial e-mail, such a bulk political messages, are unaffected. Also, the bill would not affect commercial messages sent to people with whom the sender has "a prior business relationship" or who has consented to receive messages. (See, S 759 IS, Section 8.)

Sen. Murkowski described S 759 IS in a statement in the Congressional Record as follows:

"Our legislation provides a solution to the burden of junk e-mail, also known as spam, that now plagues the Internet. There are five main components to this legislation:

  • Online marketers must honestly identify themselves
  • Consumers have the ultimate decision as to what comes into their inbox
  • Consumers and domain owners can stop further transmissions of spam to those who do not want to receive it
  • Internet Service Providers are relieved from the burdens associated with spam
  • A federal solution is provided to a nationwide problem while giving states, ISP's, and the Federal Trade Commission authority to go after those who flood the Internet with fraudulent emails."

The basic rule contained in the bill is that "A person may not initiate the transmission of unsolicited commercial electronic mail to another person if such other person submits to the person a request that the initiation of the transmission of such mail by the person to such other person not occur." (See, Section 2(a)(1).)

Moreover, anyone sending UCE must put two items in its messages: first, its "name, physical address, electronic mail address, and telephone number," and second, a notice that it will cease sending messages if it receives a request with the word "remove" in the subject line. Thus, individuals can instruct a spammer to cease; but, the spammers thereby build lists of active e-mail addresses; and, nothing in the bill addresses use of these lists. (See, Section 2(d).)

Domain owners may also opt out of receiving UCE. The bill prohibits sending UCE "to any electronic mail addresses served by a domain if the domain owner has elected not to receive transmissions of such mail at the domain ..." (See, Section 2(b) and (c).)

The bill also provides several enforcement mechanisms. First, individuals victimized by spam are given no remedies under the bill. Instead, the bill gives remedies to the Federal Trade Commission (violations of the bill are to be treated as deceptive trade practices), state government (parens patriae actions for injunctive relief and damages), and Internet Service Providers. (See, Sections 4, 5, and 6.) Also, the FTC would be given rule making authority.

In the case of actions brought by ISPs or interactive computer services, the remedies would include injunctions and damages; moreover, venue would lay in any district where the ISP is located.

Finally, the bill would preempt state law. "This Act preempts any State or local laws regarding the transmission or receipt of commercial electronic mail." (See, Section 7.)

Status. S 759 IS (106th) was introduced on March 25, 1999. No action has yet been taken.

Legislative History with Links to Related Materials.

HR 1685, Internet Growth and Development Act
(summary of anti-spam provisions only)

See also, full summary of HR 1685.

Sponsor. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA). Cosponsor. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) (web site | bio).

Summary. HR 1685 IH is a broad bill which deals with more than just spam. For a complete summary of the bill, see Summary of HR 1685. This page summarizes only those sections which pertain to spam. This bill also has sections relating to electronic signatures (Title I), and online privacy (Title III), and speeding broadband Internet access (Titles IV and V).

Title II of the bill gives electronic mail service providers (EMSPs) a cause of action against bulk commercial e-mailers who violate the posted policies of the EMSPs.

Title V, Section 504, of the bill is a criminal provision. It amends 18 USC 1030, regarding fraud and related activity in connection with computers. There are two unsolicited bulk e-mail prohibitions in this part of the bill. One prohibits both the falsifying of routing information in bulk e-mail. The other bans the use of software that falsifies such information.

The first section bans the unauthorized "transmission of bulk unsolicited electronic mail message to a protected computer with knowledge that such message falsifies an Internet domain, header information, date or time stamp, originating e-mail address or other identifier." The other section bans the sale or distribution of any computer program designed "for the purpose of concealing the source or routing information of bulk unsolicited electronic mail ..."

See also, 18 USC 1030 as it would read if HR 1685 were adopted.

HR 1686 - the Internet Freedom Act
(summary of anti-spam provisions only)

See also, full summary of HR 1686.

Sponsor. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) (web site | bio). Cosponsor. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA).

Summary. The provisions contained in HR 1686 are a subset of the provisions contained in HR 1685. In particular, Title I, Section 104, of HR 1686 IH contains the ban on header falsification found in HR 1865 IH, at Title V, Section 504. However, HR 1686 IH does not contain HR 1685's ban on violation of the EMSP's anti-spam policy. See the summary of HR 1685, above.

HR 1910, E-Mail User Protection Act

Sponsor. Rep. Gene Green (D-TX). Cosponsors. None.

Summary. HR 1910 IH contains several prohibitions, and provides recourse to many parties. Like several other bill, it deals with the false routing information concerns of the ISPs and EMSPs. It bans both the use of false routing information and the software that generates it. It allows the ISPs and EMSPs to sue. It also contains some criminal bans. It also allows individuals to opt out of receiving bulk e-mail, and allows individual e-mail recipients to sue spammers -- even their own ISPs.

Status. This bill was introduced on May 24, 1999. No other action has been taken.

Legislative History with Links to Related Materials.

HR 2162, Can Spam Act

Sponsor. Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA). Cosponsors. Rush Holt, Jack Metcalf, Phil English, Robert Underwood, Collin Peterson, Ken Calvert, Connie Morella, Richard Baker, Vernon Ehlers.

Summary. HR 2162 IH contains two parts. There is a prohibition on violating an EMSP's posted UCE policy, which only the EMSPs can sue to enforce. There is also a criminal prohibition amending 18 USC 1030 to criminalize the use of false domain information in e-mail. The language of both provisions is similar, but not identical to, HR 1685. However, unlike HR 1685, HR 2162 would preempt state laws.

The key language of the civil prohibition reads: "No person may use the equipment of an electronic mail service provider, or cause such equipment to be used, for transmission of unsolicited commercial electronic mail in violation of a posted policy of such provider."

The bill is modeled after a California law which Rep. Miller helped to pass last year. (Rep. Miller was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives last November.) HR 2162 would preempt all state UCE laws, thereby nationalizing the California concept.

Status. This bill was introduced on June 10, 1999. No action has been taken.

Legislative History with Links to Related Materials.

HR 3113, the Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail Act of 2000

Sponsor. Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM).



Legislative History with Links to Related Materials.

Background of Anti-Spam Legislation in the 105th Congress

See also, Summary of Anti-Spam, Anti-Slamming, and Truth in Billing Bills in the 105th Congress.

S 759 is the second effort by Senators Murkowski and Torricelli to pass anti-spam legislation. In the 105th Congress (1997-1998) they succeeded in getting their bill through the Senate, but not the House. The original anti-spam bill was the "Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail Choice Act of 1997," S 771 IS (105th). It was introduced on May 21, 1997.

Much later, it was attached as an amendment to S 1618 (105th), an anti-slamming bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). S 1618 ES, as amended, passed the Senate on May 12, 1998. S 1618 also had attached to it a "truth in billing" amendment offered by Senator Rockefeller. While the bill passed the Senate easily, all three issues were somewhat controversial. The topics of slamming (the unauthorized switching of long distance phone companies) and telephone billing were hardly related to e-mail spamming.

The House promptly took up the issues. HR 3888 IH (105th) was introduced by Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA) on May 14, 1998. It included the anti-slamming language of S 1618, the anti-spamming language of S 771, but not the Rockefeller amendment. However, HR 4018 IH (105th), introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), included all three provisions. Over the summer of 1998, the House Telecommunications Subcommittee held two hearings and a markup session, while the Senate Communications Subcommittee held a hearing, primarily to publicize the problems caused by spam. The full House Commerce Committee reported out a marked up bill in September, and the House passed this version of HR 3888 by a voice vote on October 12, just before the end of the regular legislative session of the 105th Congress. The House and Senate never reconciled their different versions of the bills, and hence, they died at the end of the 105th Congress. Ultimately, the failure of anti-spamming legislation in the 105th Congress was due in part to its entanglement in the politics of the long distance telephone industry, and the e-rate.