US legislators are edging toward creating a nationwide antispam law.

The House of Representatives last Saturday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would fine spammers who violate restrictions on unsolicited commercial email.

The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act was approved by a vote of 392-5. The move follows the US Senate's approval of its version of the CAN-SPAM Act in October with a 97-0 vote.

The two bills need to be merged into joint legislation before it is presented to the president for approval. It's expected to be approved and be enacted into law before the end of 2003.

More than half the 30 billion emails exchanged daily are spam, according to a study released in October by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. It costs US business an estimated $10 billion each year, for antispam equipment and lost productivity.

The House bill requires commercial email senders to provide opt-out mechanisms and their postal address, and to label their messages as advertisement or solicitation. Senders will be required to comply with opt-out requests within ten days, although the bill gives the US Federal Trade Commission authority to extend the compliance period.

The bill also prohibits spammers from harvesting email addresses from Web sites and launching automated dictionary spam attacks.

Spammers who use other people's email accounts or computers to send spam will face fines and imprisonment up to five years. They also become liable for fines up to $6 million.

The FTC will be allowed to create a "Do-Not-Spam" registry similar to the wildly popular "Do-Not-Call" registry.

The law also allows for action against wireless spam, which is afflicting mobile users in Asia and Europe. Japanese telecoms giant NTT DoCoMo processes 800 million wireless spam messages daily, claimed Democrat representative Edward Markey.