Spam, spam, spam, bacon and spam
The second house of our two-house parliament has given its blessing to the anti-spam law. Responses to that law have varied from out-right negative to timidly positive. Problems it is reported to have are that it is too weak (many would have loved to see it become part of criminal law), that it only deals with spam aimed at consumers, and that the enforcement agency, OPTA, is understaffed.
I can only agree with the latter.
Since fighting spam is a relatively new phenomenon, it is too early to say whether the repression of it should be tougher or weaker. Also, not everybody defines spam the same way, and it could be that we are outlawing modes of speech that are valuable. The law can always be changed when necessary.
The claim that the anti-spam law only protects consumers is true, but a moot point. From what I understand, the spammers’ business model is based on the fact that their costs are so low. They keep their costs low by keeping address harvesting cheap. No way will spammers be able to guarantee that their databases are free of the addresses of private persons. This should be reason enough for spammers’ customers not to order a spam run—the risk that they will engage in an illegal activity is too large.
In the end, what’s important is that a government that was more or less pro-spam (“what? you geeks want to outlaw free enterprise?” you could hear them think) is now saying that it is illegal to spam. There is nothing ambiguous about that statement, even though its backers in parliament might not fully agree quite yet. A judge won’t have much difficulty interpreting the meaning of this new law.
[…] Sending e-mail spam to consumers has been illegal in the Netherlands since 2004. Back then I wrote elsewhere that this would be enough to deter Dutch spammers because separating out business addresses from home addresses would be too costly. It seems I was wrong though. Since the general spam prohibition was passed into law, I have been deluged with the stuff on my business account. (It takes half a year for a law to come into effect after it has passed both houses of parliament, in case you were wondering.) […]