LISTSERV (R) at Work - Special Opt-In Issue (American Edition)L-Soft
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Introduction by the CEO

Dear Reader,

Eric Thomas, CEO, L-SoftThis is an important time for all Internet users. Starting October 31, 2003, all European Union member states are covered by EU Directive 2002/58/EC, also known as the Opt-In Directive. This makes the EU the largest opt-in zone in the world so far. More than 370 million people are covered, from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean. Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have or will soon have opt-in requirements for unsolicited e-mail communication in their respective national laws. This is a good start for combating spam on an international level.

In the United States, the U.S. Senate recently passed the CAN-SPAM Act. The act is currently awaiting approval by the U.S. House of Representatives and may soon become law. Although the legislation falls short of the ideal by taking an opt-out stance, it is a decent first step in the right direction. We hope that the EU's strong opt-in stance and the attention that the issue is getting in the United States will eventually lead to the adoption of federal opt-in legislation.

This special issue of LISTSERV at Work explains and compares the federal CAN-SPAM Act, various state laws as well as the EU Opt-In Directive. Also included in this newsletter are our comments on the spam situation and different suggestions on how to fight spam.

Eric Thomas,
CEO, L-Soft

Tech Tip

Q. How do I configure my lists for "opt-in" subscription?

Answer by Nathan Brindle
Senior Technical Support Engineer, Software Development, L-Soft

It's very easy to set up LISTSERV lists to provide different levels of opt-in subscription protection and to provide opt-out information in all of LISTSERV's communications with subscribers.

Simple "confirmed opt-in" lists can be configured with the list header setting:

Subscription= Open

After the receipt of and action taken on a SUBSCRIBE command by LISTSERV, a message is sent to the new subscriber, informing that the subscription request has been accepted. Nothing further is required of the subscriber to activate the subscription. This message is a combination of the two mail template forms SIGNUP1 and $SIGNUP, which can be modified to suit your needs. The default message contains signoff instructions, which all opt-in mailing lists should provide.

Because this configuration is not secure from "spoofed" subscription requests, L-Soft does not recommend that it be used but rather that "double opt-in" lists be used instead.

Double opt-in lists are configured with:

Subscription= Open,Confirm

After the receipt of a SUBSCRIBE command by LISTSERV (the first opt-in), LISTSERV sends a confirmation request to the would-be subscriber, explaining that the request for subscription has been received but must now be confirmed either by responding to the confirmation request by e-mail, or (assuming LISTSERV's web interface is enabled) by clicking on an included hyperlink. The confirmation response is the second opt-in.

Double opt-in is the most secure method of maintaining publicly subscribable lists because it ensures that the subscriber's e-mail address actually works and requires an action by the subscriber to activate the subscription. If the subscriber does not respond to the confirmation request, the request times out in 48 hours, and a message is sent stating that the subscription request has been cancelled. The timeout period is configurable by setting a value in the Confirm-Delay= list header keyword.

To make your lists even more subscriber-friendly, you can choose to add a message header or footer to all messages. This can be done by providing text in the BOTTOM_BANNER and/or TOP_BANNER mail template forms for each list. These banners can contain just about any sort of information, including opt-out information for the convenience of your subscribers. Banners can also contain rotating content if desired. For more information on banners, or on mail templates in general, please see Chapter 9 of the List Owner's Manual.

To submit questions for future issues of the newsletter, please contact

Quote of the Issue

"Combating spam has become a matter for us all and has become one of the most significant issues facing the Internet today. It is a fight over many fronts. The EU, Member States, industry and consumers all have a role to play in the fight against spam both at the national and international level. We must act before users of e-mails or SMS stop using the Internet or mobile services, or refrain from using it to the extent that they otherwise would."

Erkki Liikanen,
European Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society

L-Soft Compares CAN-SPAM Act, Newly Enacted EU Opt-In Directive

On October 22, 2003, the U.S. Senate passed "Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003," or the CAN-SPAM Act. The act is currently awaiting approval by the U.S. House of Representatives and may soon become law. October 31, 2003, ushered in the new "opt-in regime" for the European Union. Member states of the EU are now required to enact and enforce laws that include opt-in requirements for unsolicited commercial e-mail.

How does the EU opt-in directive compare with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003? Françoise Becker, L-Soft's CTO, compares the two pieces of legislation and gives insights on their respective advantages and disadvantages.

L-Soft's Comments (PDF)

L-Soft Resources

For L-Soft's e-mail marketing recommendations, download the white paper "Successful E-Mail Marketing Practices."

More (PDF)

In order to promote compliance with the EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communication, L-Soft offers pointers on the best e-mail marketing practices that not only follow the law but will also bring about the best results.


L-Soft's Comments

FTC Spam Forum Supplement (PDF)
EU Workshop Supplement (PDF)
CAN-SPAM and the EU Directive (PDF)

U.S. Resources


On October 22, 2003, the U.S. Senate approved the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (S.877). For a more detailed description of this legislation and for information about other spam-related bills that have been introduced in previous sessions of Congress, see the links below.

More (Spam Laws)
CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Spam Laws) (PDF)

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission hosted a public forum about possible ways in which to deal with the proliferation of unsolicited commercial e-mail or spam from April 30 to May 2, 2003, in Washington, DC. Françoise Becker, L-Soft's CTO, attended the forum and submitted a supplement to the FTC to be included in its records.

FTC Supplement (PDF)
FTC Spam Forum

For more information about the FTC's testimony before the House Small Business Committee about the effect of spam on small businesses, see the link below.



Thirty-seven U.S. states have enacted laws to regulate spam. Although these laws differ in details such as who is entitled to sue a spammer (e.g. an Internet Service Provider or a spam recipient), they are generally similar in nature. Currently, California has passed the most stringent spam laws. The state has adopted an opt-in rule for e-mail advertising and made it illegal to send unsolicited commercial e-mail from California or to a California e-mail address. For a summary of spam-related state laws, see the link below.

More (Spam Laws)


California's spam law will become effective January 2004. This Opt-in News article discusses the ramifications of the law and gives advice on what legitimate e-mail marketers should do to ensure compliance and avoid potential legal problems in the future.

More (Opt-in News)

European Union Resources

The EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communication harmonizes the rules on direct e-mail marketing in the European Union. These rules cover all types of sales promotions. The three main requirements for compliance are obtaining prior consent, identifying the sender and including opt-out instructions.


L-Soft participated in the EU workshop on spam that the European Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society, Erkki Liikanen, hosted in Brussels on October 16. The timing coincided with the October 31 deadline for implementing the opt-in requirements into the national laws across the EU. L-Soft's comments regarding the EU workshop on spam are available below in PDF format.

L-Soft's Comments (PDF)

U.S. Industry Group Guidelines

L-Soft is a member of the Association for Interactive Marketing (AIM), the Direct Marketing Association (The DMA), the American Marketing Association (AMA), and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). The DMA, working in tandem with The American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), released nine self-regulatory guidelines.


Download the Association for Interactive Marketing's "E-mail Delivery Best Practices for Marketers and List Owners."

More (PDF)

Copyright 2003 L-Soft