Hormel Foods gives in to spam – as does Congress

Out-Law News | 31 May 2001 | 12:00 am |

Hormel Foods Corporation, the maker of Spam luncheon meat, has accepted the use of the term “spam” as a word for junk e-mail, provided the alternative meaning is written in lower case and its product referred to in capitals. This concession comes at a time when a US congressional committee has significantly weakened a bill aiming to restrain the use of unsolicited e-mail.

Hormel used the name SPAM in 1937 following a competition to find a better name for its “Spiced Ham” product. Unsolicited commercial e-mail is thought to have been called spam after a Monty Python sketch involving a restaurant that sold Hormel’s meat with every dish.

Spam e-mail is a controversial topic with little applicable law. In the US, the original drafting of the Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail Act 2001 allowed consumers to raise actions against junk e-mailers if recipients were not pulled from lists on the consumer’s request. This consumer right to take action has since been removed, leaving only ISPs with the ability to sue if they can prove the e-mailing has caused loss, such as crashed servers and downtime.

The modified bill is expected to be considered by the House of Representatives during the summer.