47 USC 227 is a section of the United States Code that should be well known to anyone who uses a fax machine. Better known as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA, it prohibits the transmission of unsolicited advertising messages to any fax machine unless the owner of the machine has explicitly requested to receive them, or has an existing business relationship with the sender. This particular law has withstood at least one challenge of its constitutionality in 1995 (see Destination Ventures, Ltd. v. FCC, 844 F.Supp. 632, affirmed 46 F.3d 54, 9th Cir. 1995)
Now, though, it seems that the TCPA is under a very subtle and sneaky form of attack. Changes to the law as proposed in S.2603, a bill euphemistically called the "Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2004," would essentially gut the existing law and legalize unsolicited fax advertisements as long as the receiving party does not explicitly request that they be stopped.
In other words, junk faxes will, if this bill is passed in its current form, become 'opt-out' marketing instead of the current state of 'opt-in,' and it will probably come as no surprise to anyone that one of the bill's sponsors is Senator Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, perhaps better known as the 'Senator from Disney.'
The changes proposed by this bill also redefine 'business relationship' to mean as little as a single transaction within no less than five years, and no more than seven.
The Vulture Central version of the story claims that the amendments made will also eliminate the right of private action of junk FAX recipients against the senders, but I can't see where they got that from in the actual bill text. I will say that these changes would certainly make it a lot harder to sue junk faxers.
We've already seen, in gruesome detail, what a horrible mess opt-out models of advertising have made of E-mail, and spam is likely to get worse before it gets better. Are we now going to see the same problem with fax machines?
If you want to at least try to keep your fax machine junk-free, I would suggest contacting your local congresscritter, and asking them to kill S.2603 now, while there's still a chance to do so.