Is My Email Spam? Can I Be Sued for Spamming?

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Spam is a hot topic right now, and not only do people not want to receive spam, but they don’t want to be labled a spammer. This reader writes: “I just read how the Federal Trade Commission has filed lawsuits against two different groups of email senders (spammers). If these really are spammers, more power to them! But I also read about how a private ISP sued Bob Vila! The man who does “This old house”! Some of my friends have even started putting their home mailing addresses in all of their email, because they say that a new federal spam law, called “CAN-SPAM”, requires it!

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

Is this right? Do I have to start putting my home mailing address in all my email? Is the FTC going to come after me if I don’t? Can I be sued by an ISP if they don’t like the email I send?

Help! I only use email to talk to my family, friends, and online buddies, and I don’t really want to tell everyone my home address!”

The answer is that The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, which is the Federal anti-spam law, only applies to commercial email. It does not apply to the private, personal email which you send (unless, of course, your private, personal email is sent for a commercial purpose, in which case you do need to be careful to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. But that’s another question for another day.)

Generally speaking, if you use email only for personal use, and especially if you do not run any email mailing lists, then you don’t have to worry about the provisions of CAN-SPAM. Similarly, nobody, including the FTC or an ISP, can use the CAN-SPAM act to sue you just because they don’t like your email (but this does make Aunty wonder what kind of email you are sending!) You have to have violated the CAN-SPAM law, of which you are in no danger if the email you send is not commercial.

Recommend reading:

Spam Wars:  Our Last Best Chance to Defeat Spammers, Scammers & Hackers

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Author: Anne P. Mitchell, Esq.

Anne P. Mitchell, Esq. is a noted family law expert, Internet law expert, and Professor of Law at Lincoln Law School of San Jose. She is the author of "Surviving Divorce: the Single Father's Guide" and "The Email Deliverability Handbook"