While the CAN-SPAM Act, strictly speaking, applies only to commercial email, anyone sending out bulk email (such as email lists) would be well advised to follow the guidelines. (Download the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 in full.) Most are quite reasonable anyway, are are good overall best practices.
If you run an affiliate program, be advised your affiliates must comply with CAN-SPAM or you will be held responsible! Being held responsible would not be fun. ReadGray Matters of CAN-SPAM for Affiliate Managers for an extremely helpful breakdown in the impact of various changes (by @affiliatetip and @MissyWard).
There are additional penalties for a variety of shady dealings, like harvesting email addresses from web pages to spam, falsifying domain registration info to spam, auto generating email addresses to spam, etc. There are also special rules governing sexually-explicit commercial email.
A few additional rules were added in the CAN-SPAM Update in 2008–Highlights include: Opt-out must not require a fee or require information other than an email address and mailing preferences ((This could complicate the process for some senders, depending on their opt-out system in use.)). Street Addresses or PO Boxes are sufficient for physical address requirements. For multiple sender emails, at least one entity of the group is required to comply with opt-out requirements.
The bottom line is pretty simple: If you’re email is primarily commercial (and not about a transaction, like an invoice, for example), it needs to be labeled as commercial, include your snail-mail address, and sport an single-step online opt-out option that’s easy to find. The email itself needs to sent directly from your or your mailing list software, without any tracking/from address or routing info tomfoolery afoot. (See the FTC Guidelines for down and dirty overview.)
While opt-in (Opt-In: Customer has specifically requested to receive commercial emails from the sender.) requirements are not a part of the official CAN-SPAM act, Opt-in IS part of our requirements for any bulk mailing from Good Karma Host Double opt-in–where the recipient both subscribes and verifies the subscription before receiving email–it even better. See, the thing to remember about CAN-SPAM is that it’s the minimum requirements for commercial emailing, not complete best-practice recommendations.
Dixie Vogel is the founder of Good Karma Host LLC (acquired by Squidix in 2014). Dixie is a pink-haired, new age hippie chick and die-hard do-gooder. She enjoys referring to herself as "an eccentric genius," but brightly admits others may not agree. She's also been known to answer to the moniker "Goddess," usually with a big grin. Blame it on her Leo rising. She does.
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