Be Mindful of the CAN SPAM Act

Last week, I posted an article that shared an email I send to potential buyers of my domain names. The purpose was to give readers an idea about what to write when contacting potential buyers, but there wasn’t information about email protocol, aside from the marketing advice.

A commenter that goes by unknowndomainer made a comment about the CAN SPAM Act, and I think it’s important enough to highlight in a separate article.

According to Wikipedia, “The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (15 U.S.C. 7701, et seq., Public Law No. 108-187, was S.877 of the 108th United States Congress), signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 16, 2003, establishes the United States’ first national standards for the sending of commercial e-mail and requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce its provisions.”

People in the US who send commercial emails must abide by this Act or face potential financial penalties. If you are in the US, or if you are sending emails to US-based businesses, I think it’s very important for you to read up on the CAN SPAM Act and be knowledgeable about what you can and cannot do when sending emails.

For me, I generally add a line at the bottom of the email to let the recipient know that it’s a one time hand-sent email and that they weren’t added to any mailing list. In addition, I generally include my company’s mailing address as well, to ensure compliance with the Act.

I am not a lawyer and can’t advise on who needs to abide by the Act or what exactly needs to be included to prevent violations, but you should know about the Act and know what’s in it before you send out emails.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. Not knowing the law, or how people see it, is a large reason I haven’t contacted “endusers” on names I feel they should own.

    I would be most interested to also hear what others worst most irrate reply has been to a “I have a name for you email”.

  2. Under the CAN-SPAM act SPAM is defined as email that is both bulk and unsolicited. Targeted email that is sent individually, and includes valid contact information is not considered SPAM.
    There is also no use in including an unsubscribe link as the companies to whom you are writing to are not on a mailing list. There is nothing to unsubscribe from as it is a one time targeted offer.

    An email that is unsolicited but not bulk is fine, such as asking about a product before buying it or sending a promotional offer to a handful of companies. An email that is bulk but not unsolicited is fine, such as sending a newsletter. But sending an email that is both unsolicited and bulk is spamming.
    By being in business people have given their unskopen consent to be made aware of offers that would be of interest of them, a salesperson walking in their door and offering them new lightbulbs for the hardware section is unsolicited but if they have an offer which is going to reap both profit then that convention is allowed.
    When a salesman comes into a hardware shop and starts trying to sell bikinis and ice cream it is spam because it is unqualified. The salesman is there because he did no research and did not bother to even check if anyone wanted or needed his products/services.

    • If you send the same/similar email to 10 people, is that bulk? How about if you send 100? What is the definition of bulk?

      In addition, if you have no relationship with the recipients and they aren’t expecting an email, that is what I would call unsolicited.

      I suppose if you aren’t sending one email with a bunch of cc/bcc recipients it’s not “bulk” but I don’t know whether you’re protected or not by sending individual emails.

      Regarding your personal solicitation comment… many stores have signs in front saying “no solicitors” or “no soliciting permitted.” With respect to emails that are obtained via Whois lookup or other method, there isn’t really the ability to add that.

      In any case, I like to let people know that it’s not an auto-generated email so they realize it’s a one-off.

    • Second paragraph:

      “Despite its name, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t apply just to bulk email. It covers all commercial messages”

      You didn’t read very far.

      Unsolicited and not bulk is ok IF you follow the rules.

      A business has not given unspoken consent to unsolicited offers. That’s the point. Just because you think something is of interest doesn’t mean it is.

      You have the arrogance of Steve Jobs.

    • First comment was obviously meant for Federer!

      The issue of bulk is not worth really examining in too much detail. A 1,000,000 emails to 1,000,000 people is still only 1 email each.. I wouldn’t define that as bulk from an end user perspective but I would as a mailer.

  3. Elliot,

    Reputed Hosting companies have strict spam rules. When using website Email to send mails to unknown persons (potential buyers) for domains selling, Is it required to inform hosting company about this ?

    Can you give sample Email format a individual person (who does not have a company) should send ?

  4. Good follow-up & one that is probably needed, so that the industry doesn’t get tarnished.
    Would love a follow-up post with a lawyer in this field with a Q&A.
    I imagine when one fills out the templated email section of the Contact Us of a company the additional sentence/language of unsubscribe is not needed.
    Also, would like to hear his/her thoughts on what Federer brings up.
    Happy Labor Day to All

  5. Can you share a negative response that a company replies back with on a business review website you run? It would be good for others to know that a company enjoys replying back with a message that states they will boycott you and that you’re on their boycott. One-time only e-mail with your contact information.

    If you use the contact form to inform the company you are offering a great domain that could benefit them, I don’t view this as spam. One-time only e-mail.

    End-users shouldn’t have all the fun.

    • “If you use the contact form to inform the company you are offering a great domain that could benefit them, I don’t view this as spam. One-time only e-mail.”

      I am conflicted on this. On one side, I completely agree. On the other, I am reminded of all those SEO junk emails I receive because I operate websites that could use some SEO expertise 🙂

  6. One of the concepts mentioned in this post and thread is that a message sent to one person is not in scope. This is not true. To be covered by the act a message merely needs to qualify as “commercial”.

    So, if your message is advertising or promoting something, or just inquiring or opening a relationship to talk about services, then it needs to adhere to the requirements – e.g. you have to allow opt-out, include physical address, etc…

  7. Wow! Typical Govt. laws Their is NO agreement and a lot of confusion.
    Question? How can contacting someone via their “contact us” page be an email?

    If i email you I put your address on my “new Message” page on MY Email.

    But if I contact you via your site, I do not have your email !
    So how can It be considered an unsolicited email?
    if I do not have your email ? PLUS the Web page is SOLICITING saying “Contact Us” ?

    I hope that question makes sense?

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