Saturday, 31 January 2004

Confusion in a CAN

Wired Business News reported this week on widespread confusion among spammers as to what, exactly, the CAN-SPAM Act requires of them ("Spam Law Generates Confusion").

Lack of clarity in the law is generally a bad thing, although I will note one exception. Securities regulators have often said that they intentionally decline to clarify what, exactly, constitutes bad faith, unfair dealing, misappropriation of information, and other things forbidden by securities laws. The reason? Financial types are smart and act in the marketplace with blinding speed. The instant after regulators clearly define those concepts, some unethical investor will find a way to do anything he wants by staying just outside the articulated definition.

Is this situation analogous? Probably not. First off, I do not believe the CAN-SPAM Act is as unclear as the folks interviewed for the Wired article article think it is. Then again, I am a lawyer, and the article says, "In the rush to understand what Can-Spam requires, many people without legal training fell back on their own readings of the law, said Anne Mitchell, President and CEO of the Institute for Spam and Internet Public Policy, or ISIPP, which hosted the [Spam and the Law Conference]. As a result, she said, confusion about Can-Spam is rampant."

I certainly would not be able to read the statute as well as I can now if I had not gone to law school. However, I can offer a partial solution. The February issue of the Journal of Internet Law should be shipping right about now, and my paper on the Act is in it. I tried hard to explain the law and some of the technology in a way that non-lawyers and non-techies can understand. As promised, I will post the paper here after the JIL hits news stands.

Posted at 9:34:37 AM | Permalink

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