Govt carves up spam bill for Christmas

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Australia has become one of the first nations to legislate against spam, after the Federal Government's Spam Bill has been passed Tuesday.

Australia has become one of the first nations to legislate against spam, after the federal Government's Spam Bill has been passed today.

The Spam Act 2003 has been passed after Senate approval today, following the removal of Labor and Democrat amendments in the House of Representatives last night.

Communications, IT and the Arts Minister, Daryl Williams, said the Government recognises legislation alone is not the silver bullet to address "this global nuisance".

"The Government's approach to combating spam combines domestic legislation with international negotiation, public education, the development of industry codes of practice and of technical counter-measures," he said. "By removing Australia as a source of spam through the legislation passed today, we will be able to promote international collaboration to fight spammers."

This legislation is intended to impact those who post unsolicited commercial emails, however the Bill also covers mobile text messaging sush as SMS, MMS and 3G applications. To be considered spam, the message must have been sent without the recipient's consent and be commercial in nature.

Interestingly, the bill doesn't inclusively cover bulk messaging, which means a single unsolicited commercial electronic message is considered spam.
Under the new system, organisations could be fined up to $220,000 for all contraventions that occur on a single day. Companies that are repeat offenders face penalties of up to $1.1 million a day. Individual spammers risk fines of $2,200 per contravention, with a maximum penalty of $44,000 set for all contraventions that occur on a single day.

Peter Coroneos, Internet Industry Association (IIA) chief, welcomed the bill as adding momentum to an international legislative response to the problem, to complement technology solutions and end user empowerment initiatives.

"While the legislation is not perfect, it is certainly workable and strong. It preserves the balance of permitting legitimate permission based commercial email while providing a deterrent for the outright abuse of the medium by spammers. The provisions which outlaw harvesting and use and exchange of harvested email addresses is an important feature of the Act," he said in a statement to IIA members.

The Senate rejected amendments from the Opposition and the Democrats, which included trade unions and other not for profit organisations be given exemptions along with political parties and charities. 

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