by Martha Cooke | January 01, 2004
With spam regulation a puzzling patchwork of state laws, Congress moved in November to craft federal legislation. Associations want to make sure the final version of the bill, to take effect later this year, doesn’t hinder legitimate e-communication.
   The bill “was a last-minute surprise,” said Jim Clark, senior vice president of public policy and strategic relations at the American Society of Association Executives, based  in Washington, D.C. “It shows the populism of this kind of action.”
   The legislation rode the same wave of support as the “do not call” list, noted Clark, who expressed an industrywide concern that associations could be stymied by restrictions if the final law does not include an exemption for nonprofit groups. 
   For their part, associations representing the marketing industry recently offered a series of nine guidelines for e-mail campaigns. The list urges organizations to have prominent opt-out functions and to use an e-mail address with the domain name in it to confer legitimacy.
   The list was created by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers and the Direct Marketing Association, all of them based in New York City.
   ASAE’s Clark allowed that a federal bill was preferable to the current maze of regulations, including laws scattered among 37 states.
   Of particular concern to the industry, according to Clark, was a California law set to go into effect on Jan. 1. “This law has an opt-in rule vs. opt-out,” he noted. The provision, which could be superceded by the federal
law, would make associations responsible for the onerous task of getting releases from everyone, even members, to whom they send e-mail. 
   California’s bill mimics  recently proposed federal legislation that would have severely limited fax solicitations; the law has been delayed pending further study (see Newsline, “Industry Halts FCC Fax Rules...For Now,” September 2003). ASAE is keeping an eye on the measure to make sure associations aren’t left out of the loop. “We’ll watch this every step of the way,” said Clark.