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By David McGuire washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, May 27, 2004; 4:17 PM
People who falsify their identity, address or subject lines in spam e-mail messages face up to 10 years in jail and fines up to $25,000 under a new law signed yesterday by Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R).
The law is one of the toughest yet drafted to fight spam, which some experts say accounts for up to 83 percent of all the e-mail circulating on the Internet today. It goes into effect Oct. 1.
Known as the Maryland Spam Deterrence Act, the law closely mirrors the national Can-Spam Act that took effect in January. The Maryland law's penalties are stiffer, however, said state Sen. Robert Garagiola (D-Montgomery), the bill's sponsor.
Garagiola also said that more state spam laws means that there will be more people and resources dedicated to arresting, prosecuting and convicting illegal junk mailers. "It will enable states to put more anti-spam cops on the beat," he said.
The federal Can-Spam law permits maximum civil fines of $6 million, while the Maryland law allows criminal fines up to $25,000. Convicted spammers face up to five years in prison under the national law, and up to 10 years in prison under the Maryland law.
State authorities will aggressively enforce the law when it takes effect, said Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver.
U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), co-author of the national Can-Spam law, applauded Ehrlich's enactment of the Maryland law.
"It's good to see the continued effort against these kingpin spammers," said Burns. "This type of pressure from all levels is exactly the message we need to be sending to these guys."
But Ray Everett-Church, counsel for the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email, said that the law is "not likely to result in less spam in your in-box today versus yesterday."
"It all depends on enforcement," he said. "Having stiffer penalties doesn't hire more prosecutors."