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Canada Needs a Spam Law!

After reading Ken Schafer's post about "Toronto's Porn Alley" and writing my recent piece on email optimization (Email Optimization – A Changing Landscape) it really got me thinking.

Why doesn't Canada have a law that makes spam illegal?

The US has their Can-Spam Act of 2003. Sure we have our privacy policy called PIPEDA, but technically it is not against the law in Canada to send spam. Maybe that's why spammers can be found in Toronto, Montreal, Kitchener and everywhere else in Canada.
Canada has its National Task Force on Spam that recently submitted their final report which includes a recommendation for a Canadian spam law. This includes the need for opt-in, unlike the US spam laws which just require senders to remove people if they request it (opt out). However, reading a recent comment by Michael Geist, a member of the task force, I don't hold out too much hope that we will have such a law in place any time soon.

To tell you the truth, I am considering writing (maybe sending an email) to my member of Parliament to suggest this is actually a pretty wide-spread concern and that spam is truly something every person online has to deal with to some degree.

Am I right?

I checked with 10 people today who do not work in the marketing or online industries and who have an email account. Every single one of them considered spam a pain in the bum. All but 1 person had multiple email addresses. Less than half knew if they had a spam filter for their email account(s) and all said they received spam every week. So what's the political opportunity here?
h2. Everyone polled said they want the government to create anti-spam legislation.
But it has to be done right? What always scares me is leaving this stuff to the government.

After all, they commonly pass unenforceable laws. Either these are too weak to stand up in court or there aren't enough resources to fight the law-breakers. Too bad the federal government blew over $1 billion of our money on the gun registry. I am serious when I say that I think spam affects more people than guns and therefore more people would support anti-spam laws.
But please don't create something like a do-not-email registry. Just like I doubt criminals who use guns will register their illegal firearms, I also doubt spammers are going to use a do-not-email list and remove email addresses from their records.
h2. What's the solution?
How do we get a workable Canadian spam law that will help reduce spam sent to and from Canada? Let me know your thoughts. You can email me or post your comments below.

One Comment

  1. DearWebby
    DearWebby March 2, 2007

    We definitely do not need a “U-CAN-SPAM, eh” spammer protection law, and as long as crack and cocaine are easier to find than roofing nails, crooks won’t worry about a law anyway.
    Before even thinking about an anti spam law, spam has to be defined very precisely, beyond any reasonable doubt.
    For example “unsolicited commercial email” is a totally inappropriate term and should NEVER be used again. If you are in any kind of business or have a hobby, you may WANT to get mail from related companies that can provide better solutions or supplies, even if you have never heard of them before.
    What will be needed is an agreed on list of broad topics, and a requirement to either prefix the topic to the subject line, or even an additional line in the header. Don’t worry about legacy programs! How long would you hesitate to upgrade to something that reduces your spam? One second?
    Dumping mail with not-selected topics is then easy, both on the server and in mail client programs.
    That makes enforcement practical.
    A wrong or misleading topic could result in an automatic block of the offending IP numbers until a fine is paid. That also eliminates false pam reports, such as when Ms Ernestine sends a postcard pick-up notice to SpamCop and whines to the data center that holds the postcard server, every time her daughter with the wacky looking address sends her a Mothers Day card.
    A second step that will be required is broader adoption of the Listed Server standard, and blocking of mail that has traveled through unlisted proxies.
    Stock scam and similar spams sent from virus infected computers are easy enough to identify. If my MailWasher can dump those, unseen by anybody, right on the server, then we should be able to expect ISPs to dump them too, preferably instead of the legitimate mail that they censor.
    The ONLY legislation we really need from the Government is protecting spam fighters from lawsuits by spammers. A clear definition of spam, for example “wrong or misleading topic or subject” makes that simple and straightforward.
    Have FUN!

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