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The US anti-spam bill moved closer to approval at the weekend after securing the overwhelming support of the House of Representatives.

Congressional representatives voted 392-5 in favour of the Can-Spam Act 2003. Can-Spam, a modification of measures already approved by Senate, is expected to find little opposition from that quarter and could be signed into law by President Bush by January 1. If it meets that deadline, the bill would come out just in time to pre-empt tough Californian anti-spam laws that allow consumers to sue spammers for up to $1,000 per message.

Unlike earlier federal proposals, the Can-Spam Act 2003 applies to both email and text messages.

The proposed federal law outlaws deceptive subject lines and false headers in spam messages, provides for the creation of a "do not spam" registry of those who do not wish to receive unsolicited junk email and requires online marketeers to act on requests to "opt out" of future emails.

This is much less strict than the 'opt-in' approach adopted by European Union legislation, which means e-marketers need to seek the permission of consumers before they send out commercial emails.

Unfavourable comparisons between the two approaches has led anti-spam group Spamhaus to dub the bill the YOU-CAN-SPAM Act. The bill "legalizes spamming instead of banning it" and is widely supported by recalcitrant spammers, according to Spamhaus.

"From December 11, spamming will be illegal in the UK, but with 90 per cent of the UK's spam problem originating in the United States, British users will continue to be flooded, now with 'legal' spam from the US," Spamhaus argues. ®

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