The measure by State Sen. Kevin Murray targets not only those who send unwanted e-mails, reports KCBS-AM's Bob Butler, but also the companies whose products and services are being advertised.
"The great thing about going after the advertisers, in addition to the spammers, is that they are findable, even if they're in some third-world country which doesn't have a treaty with the United States," said Murray. "If they have to use Visa or MasterCard, we can get the money."
The measure covers all unsolicited commercial e-mail sent or received in California and imposes fines of $1,000 per message, up to $1 million per incident.
"There are no loopholes, no way of getting around it," said Murray, a Democrat. "If they are trying to sell you something, they have a bank account that we can find, and more often than not, they will also have a warehouse."
Washington state passed an anti-spam measure in 1998, but it didn't go as far. The Washington law provides civil penalties of $500 per message for bulk or commercial e-mail with misleading information in the subject line, invalid reply addresses or disguised paths of transmission.
A San Francisco-based marketing firm, Ferris Research, estimated that unwanted e-mails cost U.S. companies nearly $9 billion in 2002 in lost productivity, consumption of communication bandwidth and drain of technical support.
"California is sending a clear message to Internet spammers: we will not allow you to litter the information superhighway with e-mail trash," said Gov. Gray Davis in a statement.