The New Online Bounty Hunter: Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

In December 2010 the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act (“FISA”) was passed by the Canadian federal government.  It is expected to come into effect in later this year.  FISA’s goal is to:
“promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating commercial conduct that discourages the use of electronic means to carry out commercial activities”.

Translation: no more spam e-mails!!

FISA prohibits the sending of electronic communications (such as e-mails, instant messaging) unless consented to by the recipient.  If an electronic communication is sent, the sender’s information must be disclosed and there must be a mechanism to unsubscribe.  FISA also extends to computer programs that are installed to cause electronic communications to be sent without the recipient’s consent. 

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (“CRTC”) oversees compliance with FISA and has been granted broad powers.  For example, the CRTC can obtain warrants to enter individual or business premises to ensure that there has been compliance.  The CRTC can also issue notices for individuals or businesses to produce documentary evidence of compliance.

But, the CRTC is not the only sheriff in town.  Individuals have also been granted a private right of action.

The cost of contravention is steep.  An individual that does not abide by FISA can be charged up to $1,000,00; a corporation can be charged up to $10,000,000.