The CAN-SPAM Act: Requirements for Commercial Emailers
(For more about the CAN-SPAM Act: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business)
The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act) establishes requirements for those who send commercial email, spells out penalties for spammers and companies whose products are advertised in spam if they violate the law, and gives consumers the right to ask emailers to stop spamming them.
The law, which became effective January 1, 2004, covers email whose primary purpose is advertising or promoting a commercial product or service, including content on a Web site. A "transactional or relationship message" – email that facilitates an agreed-upon transaction or updates a customer in an existing business relationship – may not contain false or misleading routing information, but otherwise is exempt from most provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, is authorized to enforce the CAN-SPAM Act. CAN-SPAM also gives the Department of Justice (DOJ) the authority to enforce its criminal sanctions. Other federal and state agencies can enforce the law against organizations under their jurisdiction, and companies that provide Internet access may sue violators, as well.
What the Law Requires
Here's a rundown of the law's main provisions:
It bans false or misleading header information. Your email's "From," "To," and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person who initiated the email.
It prohibits deceptive subject lines. The subject line cannot mislead the recipient about the contents or subject matter of the message.
It requires that your email give recipients an opt-out method. You must provide a return email address or another Internet-based response mechanism that allows a recipient to ask you not to send future email messages to that email address, and you must honor the requests. You may create a "menu" of choices to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to end any commercial messages from the sender.
Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your commercial email. When you receive an opt-out request, the law gives you 10 business days to stop sending email to the requestor's email address. You cannot help another entity send email to that address, or have another entity send email on your behalf to that address. Finally, it's illegal for you to sell or transfer the email addresses of people who choose not to receive your email, even in the form of a mailing list, unless you transfer the addresses so another entity can comply with the law.
It requires that commercial email be identified as an advertisement and include the sender's valid physical postal address. Your message must contain clear and conspicuous notice that the message is an advertisement or solicitation and that the recipient can opt out of receiving more commercial email from you. It also must include your valid physical postal address.
Each violation of the above provisions is subject to fines of up to $11,000. Deceptive commercial email also is subject to laws banning false or misleading advertising.
Additional fines are provided for commercial emailers who not only violate the rules described above, but also:
"harvest" email addresses from Web sites or Web services that have published a notice prohibiting the transfer of email addresses for the purpose of sending email Generate email addresses using a "dictionary attack" – combining names, letters, or numbers into multiple permutations Use scripts or other automated ways to register for multiple email or user accounts to send commercial email Relay emails through a computer or network without permission – for example, by taking advantage of open relays or open proxies without authorization. The law allows the DOJ to seek criminal penalties, including imprisonment, for commercial emailers who do – or conspire to:
Use another computer without authorization and send commercial email from or through it Use a computer to relay or retransmit multiple commercial email messages to deceive or mislead recipients or an Internet access service about the origin of the message Falsify header information in multiple email messages and initiate the transmission of such messages Register for multiple email accounts or domain names using information that falsifies the identity of the actual registrant Falsely represent themselves as owners of multiple Internet Protocol addresses that are used to send commercial email messages. Additional Rules
The FTC will issue additional rules under the CAN-SPAM Act involving the required labeling of sexually explicit commercial email and the criteria for determining "the primary purpose" of a commercial email. Look for the rule covering the labeling of sexually explicit material in April 2004; "the primary purpose" rulemaking will be complete by the end of 2004. The Act also instructs the FTC to report to Congress in summer 2004 on a National Do Not E-Mail Registry, and issue reports in the next two years on the labeling of all commercial email, the creation of a "bounty system" to promote enforcement of the law, and the effectiveness and enforcement of the CAN-SPAM Act.
See the FTC Web site at www.ftc.gov/spam for updates on implementation of the CAN-SPAM Act.
The FTC maintains a consumer complaint database of violations of the laws that the FTC enforces. Consumers can submit complaints online at www.ftc.gov and forward unwanted commercial email to the FTC at email@example.com.
For More Information
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair practices in the marketplace and to provide information to businesses to help them comply with the law. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Your Opportunity to Comment
The National Small Business Ombudsman and 10 Regional Fairness Boards collect comments from small businesses about federal compliance and enforcement activities. Each year, the Ombudsman evaluates the conduct of these activities and rates each agency's responsiveness to small businesses. Small businesses can comment to the Ombudsman without fear of reprisal. To comment, call toll-free 1-888-REGFAIR (1-888-734-3247) or go to www.sba.gov/ombudsman.
Email list data export
We get asked by some clients about exporting their patron email list to use in an external system for email marketing purposes. First, the system is specifically designed to make email marketing easy, so you can send email blasts directly out of the system, to target groups of patrons or your entire database, including all current (to-the-moment) patrons, while automatically suppressing those patrons without an email or marked for no-email. This helps you to avoid breaking anti-spam laws which is of utmost importance to us and is stipulated in your client agreement.
Using the Lists screen is easy and allows you to send email directly out of the system to your clients, at no extra charge. There are details of how to use the marketing screens here in the help files. Just go to the table of contents to the Marketing area. Many of our clients have a beautiful html email template designed by their web designer to use to send graphical versions of email as well.
If you do need to export email addresses out of the system, note that you will need to RE-export the list for each email you send, since your patrons can opt out of email at any time when they log into their acct via your website.
Data Export Options
Data Export Batch - (preferred method)
You can use the Data Export option on the batch processing screen (accessed from the Database area of the system) to get the latest patron data and then export email addresses. From the Data Export screen you click to Batch People which will create a new batch on the right side of the screen, with download options. You then click on Export Emails which will download a file with email addresses of all patrons. This will include the patrons with their emails. If the patron has more than one email there will be more than one row for the patron, with each email. This list will include flags in the output data for any emails that are opt-ed out. You SHOULD NOT send any marketing email to any email addresses that are opted out. For additional details on batch processing see Batches.
Data Dump Output on Lists Screen - (other method)
To export email addresses you can use the "data dump"** output option on the Marketing Lists and Mailings screen which will give you a data file intended primarily for external data manipulation. This file will give you patrons in the current search set (everyone or lists selections) regardless of their opt-out preferences. So you must be SURE you refer to the opt-out columns and exclude any patron with a 1 in the email opt-out column, indicating they have opted out of email marketing. NOTE that data dump output gives you only ONE email address per patron. If they have multiple email addresses you will not get them all. For email export we'd recommend using a Data Export Batch process instead (see above).