Spam Legislation in the United States

10 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2007


Since 1997 there has been a torrent legislative activity in the United States and abroad relating to unsolicited bulk or commercial e-mail, commonly referred to as "spam." Over half of U.S. states have enacted some form of spam legislation, and two states have prohibited spam outright, as have various jurisdictions outside the United States, including the European Union. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, enacted by Congress in late 2003, imposes stiff penalties on fraudulent spam but pre-empts state laws that attempt to regulate nonfraudulent spam. But it is generally agreed that legislation has failed to solve the spam problem, and ill-advised legislation may be making the problem even worse. A stronger federal law might accomplish some good, but the international dimensions of the spam problem and other factors limit the potential impact of any legal approach. A federal law focusing on fraud in particular (as CAN-SPAM does), however, may only serve to increase the amount of spam sent by legitimate businesses while having little impact on existing spam.

Keywords: spam, unsolicited electronic mail, e-mail, email, regulation, Internet

JEL Classification: K20, K39, K42

Suggested Citation

Sorkin, David E., Spam Legislation in the United States. John Marshall Journal of Computer & Information Law, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 3-12, 2003, Available at SSRN:

David E. Sorkin (Contact Author)

The John Marshall Law School ( email )

315 South Plymouth Court
Chicago, IL 60604
United States
312-987-2387 (Phone)


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