The government has agreed to more than halve the number of years companies need to keep 'do-not-subscribe' requests from recipients of unsolicited e-mail under new anti-spam legislation. Following objections from the business sector and legislators on the committee scrutinising the bill, officials yesterday agreed to reduce the period from seven to three years. 'Members were of the view that the victims of unsolicited electronic mail do not wait for seven years before they take action, and it is too heavy a burden on service providers to keep records for seven years, so we are prepared to reduce it to three years,' said Deputy Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology Marion Lai Chan Chi-kuen. The American Chamber of Commerce, as well as local telecom operators and small- and medium-sized enterprises, objected to the seven-year stipulation, saying it would be too costly and a burden for legitimate e-marketers to retain records for so long. Under the new law, people can opt to unsubscribe from receiving spam faxes, e-mails or recorded telemarketing messages. The draft legislation requires whoever receives an unsubscribe request to keep a record of it. Legislators also sought to pin down the legality of the sale of e-mail-address-harvesting software, which is frequently used by spammers to send e-mails to thousands of recipients, as the wording of the new legislation implies that the sale of such software is prohibited. Mrs Lai said, however, sale of the software would only be deemed unlawful if it was used to harvest addresses that were then illegally spammed. Chairman of the bills committee, Howard Young, simplified the issue by comparing it to the sale of poison, saying: 'If you sell cyanide, that is OK, but if you use cyanide to kill somebody, that is not OK.'