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by Mike Zazaian October 12, 2006 - 2:32pm, 1 Comment

Hong Kong's Business District

Anti-spam legislation proposed under Hong Kong’s Unsolicited Electronic Messages Bill would make it illegal to send emails that contain any form of marketing, including those sent by legitimate businesses.

Under the proposed wording of the bill any sent e-mails that include coupons, self-promotional ads, or even logos are considered spam and would facilitate legal action by the recipient. The bill targets not only illegitimate spam operations, but also legitimate businesses who may be trying to contact potential consumers. Businesses would only be protected from the legislation if an e-mail recipient had specifically opted to receive a given e-mail, regardless of whether the business has a pre-existing relationship with the consumer. Those found in violation of the bill would face face fines up to $1 million HK per violation as well as jail time.

As one could imagine business and non-business entities alike are astir over the proposed legislation. The Civic Party in Hong Kong has filed complaints over vague wording in the document, including unclear definitions of the terms business and commercial purposes. According to the Civic party the bill would hinder the advancement of non-profit organizations that would be classified as businesses simply because they are also registered under Hong Kong’s Company Ordinance. An unclear definition of the term electronic message could also doom the bill, potentially being interpreted by courts as meaning messages transmitted through television, radio or any other electronic medium.

Tony Li Yeuk-yue, Assistant Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, disagrees with the Civic Party’s claims:

The bill should apply to both solicited and unsolicited messages. We understand the concern about preexisting relationships, but should we allow certain agreements to override the law?

Complaints have also arisen about the potential for the bill to completely slow the Chinese legal system. Under the bill any e-mail sent to a recipient, past or present, would be actionable in a court of law. With thousands of such emails being sent to any net-connected citizen over the past decade, an influx of spam-related lawsuits would make it extremely difficult to move more pressing legal matters though the courts with any degree of efficiency. Yes, advertisements can be annoying, but annoyance alone shouldn’t cost a million dollars plus jail time.

Hong Kong’s Bills committee will receive a response over the matter from higher-up government officials by the end of the month.

[via ars technica]