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Sunday, September 29 • 10:10am - 10:45am
Can We Can Spam? A Comparison of National Spam Regulations

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This paper examines the effectiveness of various spam regulations in countries across the world, with a special emphasis on the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States, and compares their effectiveness. Our analysis is based on legal documents, court judgments, spam content, and international comparison. The conclusions identify problems with current national spam regulations and enforcement, and offer suggestions on the future architecture of international spam regulations that strike a balance between regulating spam while affording reasonable protections to commercial speech rights.

Ever since the birth of electronic mail around 1993, spam has always been an annoyance for email users, besides occupying significant network resources. So far, more than 35 countries in the world have promulgated legislations that restrict the use of spam email. The United States Congress established its first national standard ? the CAN-SPAM Act ? in 2003. Now, ten years later, it seems necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of the CAN-SPAM Act: Do email boxes see less spam at all? Unfortunately, a recent study, entitled "Internet Bad Neighborhoods," found that the United States was only one among three developed nations (along with Germany and Spain) to figure in the list of top-20 countries with the highest absolute and per capita number of spammers (Moreira Moura, 2013, see p. 81). This latest finding raised important questions about why the CAN-SPAM Act appears to have been ineffective in fulfilling its goals and why the United States still figures among the biggest spam generator in the world. Did the CAN-SPAM Act, by narrowly defining the prohibited categories and preempting prior state laws offering consumer protections against spam, actually evoke the spike of spam as Ford (2005) has argued? Why have other developed countries been more effective in controlling the incidence of spam than the United States? It is definitely beneficial at this point to compare the CAN-SPAM Act to spam regulations in other countries in dimensions like legal obligation, coverage, and scope.

The phenomenon of spam email has received considerable research attention from a variety of perspectives, including content analysis (Yu, 2011), spam?s harms (Goldman, 2004), technical solutions (Potashman, 2006), economics analysis (Khong, 2004), and legal analysis (Sorkin, 2003; Dickinson, 2003), to name a few recent articles. However, no study has been done to compare the different frameworks utilized by different countries to combat the spam issue.

This paper will fill this gap in the literature by comparatively analyzing the legal frameworks for spam in a set of countries, selected to be representative on level of development (advanced and developing economies) and the per capita incidence of spam (high and low). Specific provisions of national laws, such as definitions of spam, protections if any for commercial speech, prohibited and permitted categories, penalties if any, enforcement mechanisms, etc. will be compared based on legal documents and court judgments. In conjunction with data on the prevalence of spam originating from that country, conclusions will be drawn on the pros and cons of different spam regulations. The border-crossing nature of spam requires coordination between different countries, and potentially an international legal framework to protect all. By identifying the common features and differences in national spam regulations, as well as data-based determinations of the efficacy of national regulations on controlling spam, the paper will offer insights on how to better fight against the spam problem on a global level.


Dickinson, D. (2004). An architecture for spam regulation. Federal Communications Law Journal, 57(1), 129?160.

Ford, R. A. (2005). Preemption of state spam laws by the federal CAN-SPAM Act. University of Chicago Law Review, 72, 355.

Goldman, E. (2003). Where?s the beef? Dissecting spam?s purported harms. The John Marshall Journal of Computer & Information Law, 22(1), 13.

Khong, D. W. K. (2004). An economic analysis of spam law. Erasmus Law and Economics Review, 1(1), 23?45.

Moreira Moura, G. C. (2013). Internet bad neighborhoods. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from CTIT Ph.D.-thesis Series No. 12-237.

Potashman, M. (2006). International spam regulation & enforcement: recommendations following the World Summit on the Information Society. Boston College International and Comparative Law Review, 29(2), 323.

Sorkin, D. E. (2003). Spam legislation in the United States. The John Marshall Journal of Computer & Information Law, 22(1), 3.

Yu, S. (2011). Email spam and the CAN-SPAM Act: A qualitative analysis. International Journal of Cyber Criminology, 5(1), 715.

avatar for Snow Dong

Snow Dong

The Pennsylvania State University

Krishna Jayakar

Penn State University

Sunday September 29, 2013 10:10am - 10:45am PDT
GMUSL Room 332

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