Canada’s Senate Anti-Spam Bill up for Second Reading

February 19, 2009
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Canada, one of the few developed nations that has yet to act on passing anti-spam legislation, is discussing the second read of a new bill (S-220) that would require opt-in and allow individuals the right to sue for receiving unsolicited commercial mail. It also allows ISPs to shut down companies they believe are involved in […]

Canada, one of the few developed nations that has yet to act on passing anti-spam legislation, is discussing the second read of a new bill (S-220) that would require opt-in and allow individuals the right to sue for receiving unsolicited commercial mail. It also allows ISPs to shut down companies they believe are involved in sending unsolicited or illegal messages under the law. Interestingly enough, the law holds companies liable who are not necessarily responsible for sending the mail, but who know or should know they are being advertised illegally.

The bill, authored by Senator Yoine Goldstein of Quebec would regulate all email messages received by people in Canada, regardless of the country of origin. It would also hold Canadian companies liable for procuring the sending of unsolicited mail on their behalf. This way, if a resident of Canada gets an email from somewhere overseas selling a Canadian distributor’s product, they would be able to sue the Canadian advertiser responsible for the message.

Messages exempt from the law include those in which a prior relationship is established, public opinion polls, political messages and messages from an educational institution where a household member has been enrolled. The law would seek civil penalties of up to $1.5 million and 5 years jail time for those who violate it.

Additional requirements for commercial messages would include a working 30 day unsubscribe mechanism, a seven day opt-out period, accurate header information, and advertiser contact information. Mailing to harvested lists and dictionary attacks would also be made illegal.

The law is in its second read through in the Senate. In order for it to be passed, it needs to go through consideration in committee, a third reading and Royal Assent. So it could be a long road to being signed into law. At the present time, Canada doesn’t have any bill directly related to commercial email, but they did form a task force on spam and released a report in 2005 titled “Stopping Spam- Creating a Stronger, Safer Internet: Report of the Task Force on SPAM” which outlines compliance guidelines and anti-spam resources, but is generally irrelevant when it comes to prosecution or enforcement.

For more resources, check out Ken Magill’s article and an article from Brian Jackson on itbusiness.ca.

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