It will be illegal to send unsolicited commercial e-mail to Californians if a bill which passed the California State Senate on Thursday becomes law.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), would also let individuals sue alleged spammers for $500 per spam.
The bill requires marketers to get the express consent of e-mail recipients, or to have an existing business relationship before sending them e-mail, according to a spokesperson in Sen. Bowen’s office.
The legislation does not define specifically what express consent means.
An existing business relationship would include people who have made an inquiry, transaction, application, purchase or transaction. The bill does not spell out whether registering on a Web site would be considered having an existing business relationship.
The opt-in and the right of individuals to sue make the California law among the toughest in the nation.
Virginia last month passed a law that makes spamming a felony.
Bowen’s bill, SB 12, would apply to any business in the state or outside it that sends commercial e-mail to Californians, Bowen’s office confirmed.
It passed the California Senate on a 21-12 vote. It now goes before the full Assembly before being put before both houses for a vote.
“An advertiser’s right to free speech doesn’t automatically trump your right to be left alone, especially when you’re the one who winds up paying for that ‘free’ speech,” said Bowen, in a statement.
The bill is modeled on the federal law that bans junk faxes in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.
Under the existing California anti-spam law, marketers must identify advertising e-mail as such by placing “ADV” in the subject line. Under that law, only a city attorney, district attorney, the state attorney general or an Internet service provider have a right to sue spammers.
While the California Senate passed Bowen’s anti-spam bill, the U.S. Senate heard testimony on spam before the Commerce Committee. A federal bill, the CAN-Spam Act, which would override all state anti-spam laws, was introduced in April.