The Australian government has paved the way for a crackdown on unsolicited e-mail (spam), describing it as a menace to e-mail users and a "scourge on productivity".
Legislation, which will include fines for offenders, will be introduced to parliament later this year, according to a statement issued by Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Richard Alston.
"Australia will soon be applying a large dose of 'spam repellent' and sending a strong message to spammers that indiscriminate and unsolicited bulk e-mailing will not be tolerated," Alston said in the statement.
Among the measures to be included in the legislation are:
-- enforcing an opt-in regime by banning the sending of commercial electronic messages without the prior consent of end users unless there is an existing customer-business relationship
-- requiring all commercial electronic messages to contain accurate details of the sender's name and physical address and the inclusion of a functional unsubscribe facility
-- banning the distribution and use of e-mail harvesting, or list-generating software
-- enabling fines and enforceable injunctions to be taken against offenders
In addition, the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE), the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Australian Communications Authority and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will continue work to establish international frameworks for dealing with spam, according to the statement.
Australia's position on spam is closer to the tough line adopted by the European Union (EU) than to the US's apparently less strict approach. A law banning unsolicited e-mail messages comes into force in the 15-member EU in a few months time. However, unless concerted action is taken by the US and China (the two countries from where most spam emanates) the Australian and EU's actions will be in vain.