Canadian Journal of Law and Technology


Anti-Spam Legislation, CASL, Commercial electronic messages, US CAN-SPAM Act


Following several countries, Canada recently passed Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), in an attempt to tackle spam. The law aims to ‘‘protect Canadians while ensuring that businesses can continue to compete in the global marketplace”. For this purpose, CASL prohibits not only the sending of commercial electronic messages without consent, but also any alteration of transmission data in the course of a commercial activity. Moreover, the Act disallows the installation of a computer program on another person’s computer system and the sending of commercial electronic messages following the installation. These three activities are prohibited unless the author or initiator has obtained the recipient’s prior consent, either express or implied. This opt-in approach contrasts with the U.S. CAN- SPAM Acts opt-out regime, in force since 2004, which is known to offer to senders the chance to initiate contact and to recipients the option to unsubscribe or reject any subsequent commercial electronic message. Our paper intends to demonstrate that, notwithstanding the apparent difference in their respective approach, CASL and U.S. CAN-SPAM Act remain fundamentally similar in practical effect. This resemblance is good news, considering the profile and proximity of Canadian and American e-commerce economies. Thus, in spite of its detail and complexity, CASL may not be the most stringent anti-spam act as claimed, certainly not with the challenges related to its implementation and enforcement.