We talk about the CAN-SPAM Act often, and you may even hear about it from time to time when email spam makes the news, or when looking at your own email marketing policies, or, even, when dealing with spam complaints. But what exactly is CAN-SPAM and which parts of it are most applicable to you? Here are the 10 things that you need to know about CAN-SPAM.

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 was signed into law on December 16, 2003 by President George W. Bush. CAN-SPAM is an acronym for: Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003. CAN-SPAM established the United States’ first national standards for the sending of commercial email and provides for the Federal Trade Commission, and state Attorneys General, to enforce its provisions. Note that CAN-SPAM also empowers ISPs to sue spammers directly under certain circumstances.

Here are some points about CAN-SPAM that are applicable to you.

10 Things You Need to Know About the CAN-SPAM Act

  1. CAN-SPAM applies to all commercial email.
  2. CAN-SPAM applies to email for which a primary purpose is to feature your goods, services, or content even if you do not send the email yourself.
  3. CAN-SPAM may apply to email sent out by your affiliates on your behalf.
  4. CAN-SPAM applies even if your product or service is being advertised in email sent by third-party affiliates, not you.
  5. CAN-SPAM requires that all information in your email headers, email body, and other email content to be true, accurate, and not misleading.
  6. CAN-SPAM requires that in order for someone to unsubscribe from your mailing list they be able to do it by “sending a reply electronic mail message or visiting a single Internet Web page.”
  7. CAN-SPAM requires you to honor opt-out and unsubscribe requests, and to immediately cease sharing the user’s address even with previously agreed-to partners.
  8. CAN-SPAM does not require that you use confirmed opt-in for your mailings, however it is one of the best defenses against an accusation of CAN-SPAM violations.
  9. CAN-SPAM does not require ISPs to accept email which is CAN-SPAM compliant. In fact, ISPs are specifically exempted from claims that they must accept email if it complies with CAN-SPAM.
  10. CAN-SPAM is the absolute minimum that you have to do when it comes to responsible email sending – however, if the requirements of CAN-SPAM are the only standards that you are meeting, then you risk being tagged as a spammer by blocklists and ISPs (those same ISPs who CAN-SPAM says can reject your email for any reason, and who can sue you for spamming them). This is because these standards do not rise to the level of generally accepted industry practices, which require at least true single opt-in, and
    hold confirmed (double) opt-in as the true standard, and which require diligent mailing list maintenance and hygiene.

You can find the full text of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and other email laws in our Legal Knowledge section.

As always, we are always here if you have any questions!

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10 Things You Need to Know About the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003

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