Many people don’t look at it as simply as it is stated, so I wanted to revisit the Can Spam and what it means. Can Spam is divided into 4 categories or sections: subscriber collection, sending behavior, content and unsubscribe policies.
Can Spam defines the following types of collecting and obtaining email addresses or subscriber’s as illegal: address harvesting, dictionary attacks, purchasing illegal lists.
What is address harvesting? This means you can’t collect or obtain emails by automated means or knowingly purchase emails that were collected by automated means. Some methods of address harvesting are software packages that scrape the Internet and/or newsgroups to collect emails to be sent to commercial emails in bulk.
What are dictionary attacks? A dictionary attack is using a method to create emails by combining names, letters, or numbers to valid or invalid domain names to make up emails. This also means you can’t take a batch of known Hotmail addresses and replace @aol.com with @Yahoo.com. It basically means that you can’t make up email addresses.
Can I purchase a list? Although it’s legal to purchase lists, it is illegal to purchase lists that are assembled by illegal tactics such as address harvesting or dictionary attacks.
Can Spam laws specify certain sending behaviors that you must comply with before you send an email. These items are not allowed: false headers, sending to unsubs, open relay, sending to illegally obtained emails, and automated sending accounts
False Headers are not allowed when sending emails. This means you cannot change the email headers that show the routing information to lie about who you are, or where you came from.
Sending to an unsubscribe recipient is against the law. You have 10 days to remove them. This also means if you send for an affiliate, you must supply your unsub list in 10 days as well.
Unauthorized open relay use: You can’t send your commercial email through an unsecured open relay to hide your true identity or manipulate headers.
Sending to illegally obtained recipients is not allowed. It is illegal to send emails to recipients that were obtained by false means.
Automated creation of sending accounts is not allowed. You can’t by automated means, create multiple accounts (AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail etc.) for the purpose of sending commercial mail.
There are Can Spam rules for the content of the email as well. You cannot use deceptive from or subject lines. There must be a physical postal address, an unsub, link and adult content must be labeled.
What is a deceptive from line? A deceptive from line is sending it from Oprah when you are not Oprah. It is misleading and not allowed.
What is a deceptive subject line? A deceptive subject line is any subject line that does not reflect the content of your email or is false in any way. Putting something like you just won the lottery might get you clicks but could get you in trouble.
A physical address is required. Every piece of email sent must have a physical postal address. PO Boxes are allowed, as long as it is registered with the United States Postal Service as a deliverable mailbox address.
Unsubscribe links are required within the body, must be easily read within the content, and a statement of instruction on how to be removed from the list must be present. If you don’t have a unsubscribe link, then you must have a way for the individual to remove themselves.
Adult content is regulated as well. If your email contains adult content then it must be properly labeled. The first 19 characters of your subject line must be “SEXUALLY EXPLICIT:” including the colon, followed by a clean subject line.
Can Spam also outlines some unsubscribe policies that email marketers must follow in order to be compliant. Many of these fall under the other categories as well, but are listed in this section of Can Spam also.
Unsubscribe Link or Method: Within the body, easily read within the content, a statement of instruction on how to be removed from the list must be present. If you don’t have a unsubscribe link then you must have a way for the individual to remove themselves (e.g replying to the email). However, to stay compliant you must inform them within the content on how to do so.
Unsubscribe within 10 days: If a recipient requests to be removed by any means including via a URL, phone, or email, you must remove them within 10 calendar days.
Remove Method Availability: The remove method you choose to use must be in working order for a minimum of 30 calendar days. If you have a unsubscribe link, it must stay working for 30 days. If you have a remove email that you instruct people to send their requests to, it must be up and working for at least 30 calendar days. The clock starts from the date you send the email.
Unsubscribe process cannot be difficult or complicated. The Act defines this as a recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than their email address, or take any steps other than sending a reply email message or visiting a single web page to unsubscribe.
Can Spam laws are put in place to protect consumers and it is illegal to disregard these practices and policies. Sometimes a refresher course is a good way to remind people to check and double check their own practices and policies and make sure they are compliant with the Can Spam Laws.