Caube rebuts EFA on Aussie spam bill

A scrap has broken out between two Australian online watchdogs over the country's proposed anti-spam legislation.

Caube.au, Australia’s Coalition Against Unsolicited Bulk Email, has hit back at criticism of the federal anti-spam bill by Electronic Frontiers Australia.

“[Caube.au] has reviewed the criticisms of EFA, and found that [its criticism of the bill as not truly anti-spam] is entirely unjustified,” says founding director Josh Rowe, in an email to Computerworld Online.

“In particular:

  • None of the three case scenarios offered by EFA as examples of situations in which non-spam would be banned [is] correct. In each case the conduct in question would be legal under the proposed law.
  • The EFA analysis fails to reflect the flexible approach taken in the bill, which is designed to ensure that even if there are unexpected consequences, those consequences can be eliminated swiftly.

“The EFA approach gives more weight to the fringes of the legislation than to the core provisions,” Rowe says. “Indeed not one of the criticisms relates to the core provisions.

“The feared outcomes pay insufficient regard to the background of the common law, including the law of consent, administrative law and the common law as it relates to search warrant powers, which render those feared outcomes not just unlikely, but unlawful,” he says.

“The criticisms of the policy-based exceptions [for government agencies, religious bodies and ‘factual’ emails] fail to acknowledge that the law is to be reviewed two years after the penalties come into effect. [That review] will include reconsideration of those policy exceptions and to recognise that most of the exempted groups have strong reasons not to spam,” says Rowe.

While there is room for improvement, the bill sets the right base standard -- opt-in. It provides a framework in which almost all of the concerns that EFA has with the fringe areas can be fine-tuned by executive regulation.

“It is wrong to claim that the bill is 'not anti-spam'. The bill does ban spam. Not all spam, but the largest categories of spam. Its impact on non-bulk commercial email is minimal and adequate measures have been included to deal with unforeseen consequences.

"Accordingly, Caube.au continues to support the Spam Bill 2003 in its present form.”

A fuller account of Caube.au’s position on EFA’s view of the bill is at: www.caube.org.au/efa-reply.htm.

The Australian bill has caught the attention of New Zealand associate IT minister David Cunliffe, who has expressed personal approval of its opt-in approach.

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