106th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 3024

To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to restrict the transmission of unsolicited electronic mail messages.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

October 5, 1999

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Commerce


A BILL

To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to restrict the transmission of unsolicited electronic mail messages.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the 'Netizens Protection Act of 1999'.

SEC. 2. PROHIBITION OF INITIATION OF TRANSMISSION OF UNSOLICITED ELECTRONIC MAIL.

    (a) IN GENERAL- No person may initiate, or cause to be initiated, the transmission of an unsolicited electronic mail message in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce if the message--

      (1) does not contain the name, physical address, and electronic mail address of the person who initiates the transmission of the message;

      (2) does not provide an electronic method by which the recipient of the message can contact the person who initiated the transmission of the message to request that no further such messages be sent, which method may include electronic mail or Internet access; or

      (3)(A) is part of a bulk transmission of such messages; and

      (B) includes information that is located in the subject line of the message and is false or misleading with respect to the body of the message.

    (b) TREATMENT OF STATE LAWS- Subsection (a) may not be construed to preempt any State law relating to unsolicited commercial electronic mail.

    (c) PRIVATE RIGHT OF ACTION-

      (1) CAUSE OF ACTION- Any person adversely affected by a violation of subsection (a) may, within 1 year after discovery of the violation, bring a civil action against a person who violates such subsection in a district court of the United States or in any other court of competent jurisdiction, for the district or jurisdiction in which the unsolicited electronic mail message was received or in which the defendant is located.

      (2) RELIEF- In a civil action under this subsection, the court may--

        (A) grant temporary and final injunctions on such terms as it may deem reasonable to prevent or restrain violations of subsection (a);

        (B) award damages as described in paragraph (3); and

        (C) direct the recovery of full costs, including awarding reasonable attorneys' fees to an aggrieved party who prevails.

      (3) DAMAGES-

        (A) AMOUNT- The amount of damages in an action under this subsection for a violation of subsection (a) may not exceed $500 for each unsolicited electronic mail message the transmission of which was initiated in violation of such subsection. The court shall treble the amount recovered under the preceding sentence for any transmission of an unsolicited electronic mail message to the aggrieved party in violation of subsection (a) that the court finds was initiated after the aggrieved party contacted the initiator of the transmission to request that the initiator not initiate further transmissions of such mail to such person.

        (B) RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER DAMAGES- Damages awarded under this paragraph for a violation under subsection (a) are in addition to any other damages awardable for the violation under any other provision of law.

SEC. 3. RESTRICTIONS AGAINST USE OF INTERACTIVE COMPUTER SERVICES TO INITIATE UNSOLICITED ELECTRONIC MAIL.

    (a) STATEMENT OF POLICY- Each interactive computer service provider shall make available to each customer of the interactive computer servicer of the provider the policy of the provider regarding unsolicited electronic mail, including any option the provider may have for the customer to elect to receive or not to receive unsolicited electronic mail and any other options customers may exercise to restrict the receipt of unsolicited electronic mail. Such policy shall be set forth in writing, in clear and understandable language, in the agreement for the provision of the interactive computer service by the customer.

    (b) VIOLATION OF POLICY AGAINST BULK MAIL- No customer of an interactive computer service provider may use the equipment or facilities of the provider to initiate, or cause to be initiated, the bulk transmission of an unsolicited electronic mail message if the policy referred to in subsection (a) of the provider prohibits the initiation of such bulk transmissions.

    (c) CAUSE OF ACTION-

      (1) IN GENERAL- In addition to any other remedies available under any other provision of law, any interactive computer service provider adversely affected by a violation of subsection (b) may bring a civil action in a district court of the United States against a person who violates such subsection.

      (2) RELIEF-

        (A) IN GENERAL- An action may be brought under paragraph (1) to enjoin a violation of subsection (b), to obtain damages as specified in subparagraph (B), or to obtain such further and other relief as the court considers appropriate.

        (B) DAMAGES- The amount of damages in an action under this subsection for a violation of subsection (b) may not exceed $500 for each unsolicited electronic mail message the transmission of which was initiated in violation of such subsection.

        (C) RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER DAMAGES- Damages awarded under this paragraph for a violation of subsection (b) are in addition to any other damages awardable for the violation under any other provision of law.

        (D) COST AND FEES- The court may, in issuing any final order in any action brought under this subsection, award costs of suit, reasonable costs of obtaining service of process, reasonable attorney fees, and expert witness fees for the prevailing party.

      (3) VENUE; SERVICE OF PROCESS- Any civil action brought under this subsection in a district court of the United States may be brought in the district in which the defendant or in which the interactive computer service provider is located, is an inhabitant, or transacts business or wherever venue is proper under section 1391 of title 28, United States Code. Process in such an action may be served in any district in which the defendant is an inhabitant or in which the defendant may be found.

SEC. 4. PROTECTION OF INTERACTIVE COMPUTER SERVICE PROVIDERS.

    (a) IN GENERAL- An interactive computer service provider who, in good faith, takes action to restrict or prevent the receipt of unsolicited electronic mail by its customers shall not be liable for any harm resulting from failure to prevent such receipt.

    (b) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION- Subsection (a) may not be construed to prevent or restrict the liability of any interactive computer service provider for any failure to provide any services other than restriction or prevention for customers of receipt of unsolicited electronic mail.

SEC. 5. DEFINITIONS.

    For purposes of this Act, the following definitions shall apply:

      (1) BULK- The term 'bulk' means, with respect to the transmission of an electronic mail message, the transmission, within a 7-day period, of such a message or messages that are identical or substantially similar to 50 or more intended recipients.

      (2) INITIATE THE TRANSMISSION- The term 'initiate the transmission' means, with respect to an electronic mail, to originate the message, and does not include the actions of any interactive computer service whose facilities or services are used only to relay, handle, or otherwise retransmit the message.

      (3) INTERACTIVE COMPUTER SERVICE- The term 'interactive computer service' has the meaning given such term in section 230(e) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 230(e)).

      (4) INTERACTIVE COMPUTER SERVICE PROVIDER- The term 'interactive computer service provider' means the provider of an interactive computer service.

      (5) RECIPIENT- The term 'recipient' means, with respect to an electronic mail message, an individual electronic mail address to which the message is directed, without regard to whether such address corresponds to a person, computer, list server, or other automated electronic device.

      (6) UNSOLICITED ELECTRONIC MAIL- The term 'unsolicited electronic mail' means electronic mail unless such mail is transmitted (A) to any person with that person's prior express invitation or permission, or (B) to any person with whom the sender has an established business or personal relationship.

SEC. 6. EFFECTIVE DATE.

    This Act shall take effect upon the expiration of the 60-day period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act and shall apply to transmissions of electronic mail initiated after the expiration of such period.
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