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Spam Mail: Is It Legal to Send E-Mails Repeatedly?

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The said article briefs the readers on various anti-spam laws and the need for banning unsolicited commercial mails.

Image Source: HelloTech

Introduction 

Technology is now the driving factor behind any economy. The Internet is one such technology that spans the globe and is not under the direct control of any single country or law. However, as technology progressed, the occurrence of these crimes changed, and the provisions of existing legislation were found to be ineffective in combating them.

Spamming has been the subject of a few cases. Spam is an unsolicited email that is sent in large quantities. Spam is any advertisement, information, or solicitation sent to a person via e-mail without their consent and with no prior relationship between the sender and the recipient. The first known instance of email spam was in 1978 when a message announcing the availability of a new Digital Equipment Corporation model was sent to 393 ARPANET recipients. ‘Make Money Fast,’ which was released in 1988, was the first known electronic chain of unwanted junk emails.

Electronic spamming was virtually unheard of in major countries until the early 1990s. Spam accounted for about 16 per cent of all email sent over the Internet in early 2002; by early 2008, spam accounted for between 87 per cent and 95 per cent of all email. The first major commercial spam incident occurred when a group of lawyers began advertising immigration law services on bulk Usenet. The occurrence was dubbed the ‘Green Card Spam.’ Following widespread criticism, the lawyers claimed that they were entitled to free speech, which included the right to send unwanted commercial messages.

Example of spam mails are 

  • Any email message sent to an address that isn’t specified Any email messages sent to an email contact list that has been purchased.
  • Spam is any email message with an invalid email address in the From Line. → Any email that does not contain a valid physical address is considered spam. → Spam is any email message with false or misleading information in the header, subject line, or message body.
  • Spam is any email that claims you can earn any amount or currency from home each week.
  • Any email that is anonymous or does not contain the required elements.

However, while not every country in the world has anti-spam legislation, a significant number of them do. For example, the United States CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, New Zealand’s Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act of 2007, and Canada’s Anti-Spam Law are all in place. In India, there is no anti-spam legislation. The existing law, the Information Technology Act of 2000, and the CAN-SPAM Act 2003, makes no provision for spamming regulation, but it does regulate obscenity, which includes publishing, transmitting, or causing to be published in electronic form any material that is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest.

Information Technology Act of 2000 

  • Sections 79 and 43a of the Information Technology Act of 2000 suggest that an intermediary dealing with personal data must pay compensation if it fails to protect the data.
  • Furthermore, if obscene content is published or transmitted via electronic means, a penalty may be imposed under Section 67
  • The penalty for mailing “offensive” emails via a laptop or any other communications system, such as a mobile phone or a tablet, is defined in Section 66A of the IT Act. Fines of up to INR 5,000 are possible penalties.
  • A fine of up to INR 10,00,000 and up to 5 years in prison is imposed in the event of a subsequent offence conviction.

It does not, however, cover acts relating to online misrepresentation, which may lead to users voluntarily transferring their data. Phishing and pharming are examples of such acts that are not adequately covered by the proposed amendments. In such cases, the criminals/offenders host a website with a strikingly similar domain name and a similar look and feel as the original website.

There is no specific law requiring them to do so or imposing a penalty on businesses that begin sending spam. Unlike the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States, which imposes harsh penalties for ruthless email spammers, such regulation in India is still a long way off.

CAN-SPAM Act 2003 

The CAN-SPAM Act established a set of guidelines for commercial electronic messages and emails. It gives recipients the ability to easily request that a company stop sending them emails and spells out the consequences of doing so. Other provisions of the Act assist in identifying marketers and require that advertisements or offers be identified. The CAN-SPAM Act, despite its name, does not only apply to bulk email, it applies to all commercial messages, which are defined as “any electronic mail message whose primary purpose is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service” by the law, including email that promotes content on commercial websites.


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