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The US Sentencing Commission (USSC) sent its proposals for sentencing spammers off to Congress this week.

Offences under the recently-introduced Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM Act) will be treated as a felony. Criminal sanctions apply where spam is sent using someone else's computer without their permission or where bulk mailers misrepresent the source of a message.

The USSC is taking a tough stand by retaining a controversial proposal to compare spamming to theft, fraud and property destruction offences for sentencing purposes.

Sentencing will depend on the amount of loss and the number of victims of a spam attack.

Aggravating factors in sentencing will include improperly obtaining email addresses for the purpose of spamming and "an automatic application of an additional 25 per cent sentence increase for mass marketing" (as if spam could be anything else).

Congress can modify the sentencing guidelines until 1 November, after which they will become legally binding. ®

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