Wed, Jan 19, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Statute set to make spam illegal

NECESSARY MOVE A long-awaited draft bill that will appoint a government agency to police unwanted spam and fine perpetrators is set to be passed today

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Spammers would be subject to pay an individual or an organization damages of up to NT$20 million if they continue to send unwanted e-mail, according to a draft bill designed to regulate commercial-oriented e-mail.

The statute governing commercial spam (濫發商業電子郵件管理條例), which is scheduled to be approved by the Executive Yuan today, would make sending commercial spam illegal.

It would allow a receiver of spam to ask for a "damage loss" of between NT$500 and NT$2,000 per e-mail from the sender.

The ceiling of the total damages that could be asked for by receivers of the same spam message would be NT$20 million.

Spammers, however, must pay the amount they profit from sending the same spam, if the total amount requested by those receiving the same letter exceeds NT$20 million.

The draft stipulates that senders of mass electronic commercial letters must provide receivers with the choice of rejecting future letters from the same sender, or an "opt-out" function.

Senders of such e-mails must specify in the subject line that the letter is a commercial letter, or an advertisement, labeling it "ADV."

They should also provide in the e-mail a correct business or home address and a company's or individual's name.

The sender must stop sending any commercial e-mail once he or she learns or has the means to learn that the original receiver does not wish to receive any e-mail in the future.

They should also stop sending such letters when they know or have the means to know that the subject of the e-mail is false or misleading, or that the account address of a forwarded e-mail is forged.

The bill also designates the Ministry of Transportation and Communications as the supervisory body before the proposed national communication commission (NCC) is established.

Learning of the Cabinet's intention to approve the draft bill, Jullian Wu (吳小琳), secretary-general of the Taiwan Internet Association, said that it is necessary to enact a law to regulate e-mail in the electronic age.

"It's like littering. Although nobody would die because of littering, the government has to regulate it," she said.

According to Wu, the association and service providers have been lobbying the government to enact a law to regulate spam since 1997.

She said that she was happy to see their efforts finally bearing fruit.

"When we first started about eight years ago, many government officials thought that it was a crazy idea and an unnecessary move," she said.

"Some legal experts even said that it would violate spammers' freedom of speech," Wu said

While some might question the effectiveness of the legislation and argue that regulation would not necessarily diminish the amount of spam, Wu said that these are actually two different matters.

"It's like although we have a penal law, it doesn't necessarily mean that crime rates will drop," she said. "But because of the le-gislation, people know that they have to face the consequences and pay the price for whatever they do wrong."

Wu also lauded the draft for assigning a government agency to handle the matter because most people, including the government, have long assumed that it was the obligation of Internet service providers to police spam.

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