The makers of Spam canned lunch meat, Hormel Foods, Austin, Minn., have taken exception to the way their legendary product's name has been used to refer to junk e-mail.So the ratification of the CAN-SPAM Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing), which went into effect January 1, had to come as a relief to Hormel executives. If the law works as effectively as many hope, spam e-mail may disappear-along with the ubiquitous reference to Hormel's product name.

CAN-SPAM was designed to prohibit companies from sending fraudulent e-mails, as well as transmitting e-mails after objections from recipients. Insurers say they are pleased with the law-both what was included and what was left out.

Specific stipulations of the law include:

* E-mail must use accurate and valid header information that identifies the sender.

* E-mail must have a domain name, originating e-mail address and destination.

* E-mail must have subject headings that accurately describe its commercial purpose and content.

* Recipients must be able to "opt out" of future e-mails. The sender must refrain from sending e-mail messages after the recipient requested not to receive any in the future.

* Sender must provide a valid return e-mail address and a full physical postal address.

What was omitted from the law is also important to many insurers and other corporations. As the House and Senate examined the measure, a provision was considered that would have forced companies to put specific details in a subject line, according to Thomas Graham, vice president, direct to consumer marketing, for Omaha, Neb.-based Mutual of Omaha.

For instance, it was discussed whether the subject line of an e-mail should include the phrase "Adult Content" if the offer that a company was marketing was being targeted to adults. "You could have imagined the potential problems: Some people would see 'Adult Content' and assume it was pornography, and delete the e-mail," says Graham.

This provision was stricken from the law-as was an attempt to provide a "Do Not E-mail" list. similar to the Do Not Call registry that governs telemarketing. The Federal Trade Commission helped defeat the "Do Not E-Mail" list mainly because people change e-mail addresses so often that it would have been extremely difficult to maintain an accurate list, says Graham.

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