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It has happened. After much processing, a few fallen governments, and about a trillion spam messages, Canada has passed its own anti-spam bill.

And it’s about #*&%ing time.

Formerly Bill C-27, the Electronic Commerce Protection Act, the new C-28 Fighting Internet (and wireless) Spam Act (FISA), was passed on December 15th, and established requirements for consent, identification, and unsubscribe methods.

Unlike CAN SPAM, FISA applies to much more than just email. SMS, instant messagingand even Social Networks all get covered, and it includes protections and legal avenues against phishers, spyware, and malware.

Unlike CAN SPAM, enforcement also falls into the hands of more than just regulatory bodies. While fines of $1 million per infringement for individuals and $10 million per infringement for organization can be handed out by the CRTC, Competition Bureau, and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, FISA also includes provisions for private right of action, allowing individuals to seek damages in court resulting from a violation of the law.

Yes, now you can sue spammers.

The law includes the standard CAN SPAMish clauses, such as that unsubscribes must honored within 10 days, and all sent messages must include:

  • company name
  • company contact info
  • easy method of contacting sender
  • unsubscribe mechanism

There are three oddities, though, and it will be interesting to watch how the courts interpret them:

Even if they do not have permission, companies may email you if:

there is an existing business relationship or non-business relationship between the sender and recipient

the recipient has published their address in a “conspicious” manner and the message is related to the recipients professional capacity

The recipient has directly provided their address to the sender

Now, does this mean that your dentist can send you his marketing newsletter without permission? Or that, since my email address is published online in a number of profiles, I can now be added freely to every internet marketing newsletter? I don’t know.

Anyway, it’s great to see that Canada has finally gotten its act together and created a law to defend people against spammers. Provisions that extend it to IM, SMS and social networks are just icing on the cake.