Maryland Spam Act Awaits Governor’s Signature

NEW YORK The Maryland Spam Deterrence Act, designed to crack down on fraudulent and deceitful e-mail activity, today passed the state general assembly and has been sent to Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. for his signature.

Maryland is one of several states that are trying to push legislation that would add an extra layer of anti-spam enforcement, following last December’s passage of the CAN-SPAM Act. While the federal law, which took effect Jan. 1, pre-empted most state anti-spam laws, it still permits those addressing falsity or deception.

The Maryland legislation—sponsored by two Democrats, state Rep. Neil Quinter and state Sen. Robert Garagiola—makes it a crime to knowingly transmit commercial e-mails with the intent to deceive or mislead recipients or an Internet service provider as to the message’s origin. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 66 percent of spam contains at least some form of deception.

“The resources at the federal level are limited. What this does is it gives a tool to the states and state attorneys general to go after the most egregious spammers. We’re putting more cops on the street, so to speak,” Garagiola said last month [Adweek, March 15].

Under the bill, violators could face up to three years in prison or up to a $5,000 fine—or, for larger violations, up to five years in prison or up to a $10,000 fine. Repeat offenders would be subject to penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment or up to a $25,000 fine. Spammers could also be ordered to forfeit their profits and computer equipment used to violate the law. The legislation also gives the attorney general the authority to seek civil penalties of up to $25,000 a day, or $2-8 for each spam message sent in violation of the law.