Industry Lessons of 2003 Part II
Everybody Loves a Sequel. As we sit through Terminator 3 and the third installment of The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings (but mercifully only one Gigli), we must remember that sequels are not limited to Hollywood. CAN-SPAM is not the end of the road for the Spam debate but instead is merely its starting point. As long as anti-spam advocates continue to passionately seek to ban spam and the Congress includes Senators such as Chuck Schumer, this issue will not go away. When the new Congress convenes in 2005, the debate will turn to the effectiveness of the CAN-SPAM Act in addressing spam, the feasibility of a Do Not Spam Registry and what measures, if any, are required to improve the law (which may range from granting consumers a private right of action to the creation of an industry self-regulatory body to police itself). Given that the current legislation took five years to pass, we can expect that any subsequent debate will not yield any immediate results.
Technology Conquers All (or does it). Lost amid all the heated debate over the CAN-SPAM Act is the fact that the most effective solution to spam may be technological. Spam filter technology is a boom business. According to the Radicati Group, spam filter technology sales will grow from $600 million in 2003 to $2 billion by 2007. At the same time, all the major ISPs are upgrading their spam filters as a way to attract frustrated consumers. Marketers will need to learn to adapt to the increasingly sophisticated filters that apply their own unique definition of spam, which will have no relation to the definitions used in legislative debates. The role of filters technology and their level of false positives may become one of the more contentious issues in this debate, particularly when compliance with the CAN- SPAM Act may increase the likelihood that a message is "junked" by a spam filter. As spam filter technology evolves, it is certain that programs such as Bonded Sender and ISP "White Lists" will become increasingly prominent.
Blame Canada? There is little doubt that the countless Nigerian scam emails (and their variations) are a nuisance. Nonetheless, we should not be too quick to condemn Africa's most populous nation. Police recently arrested three perpetrators of these scam emails who were . . . um . . . Canadian. Before launching a boycott of Mike Meyers' movies or Molson's beer or serving "Freedom Bacon" at breakfast, we should remember that Nigeria is not without blame; as is evident by the prosecution of Nigerians responsible for a $180 million fraud that brought down a Brazilian bank (not to mention the State Department's report of at least 15 deaths attributable to the scheme). Of course, the Canadian connection remains an excellent excuse to skip the critically panned The Cat in the Hat.
A Holiday Consensus. Despite the heated battles over the past year, I am sure that industry and consumer groups can agree on at least one point at this time - "Happy Holidays to one and all."
Bennet Kelley is Vice President of Legal & Strategic Affairs for Hi-Speed Media, Inc., an interactive marketing company in Los Angeles.