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Warped Priorities Watch: That's Your Goal?!


By Ken Magill

The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email has outlived its usefulness.

Evidence CAUCE has jumped the shark is in a press release put out today welcoming Inbox Marketer as its newest corporate supporter.

"We are happy to have Inbox Marketer's support as we continue to work towards effective consumer protection legislation and regulation around the world," said CAUCE President John Levine in a statement. "Inbox Marketer joins other supporting members that include industry leaders Return Path and MailChimp, and is an especially valuable ally in our ongoing efforts to see the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation finalized and brought into effect."

So with spam at near zero levels in our inboxes and true attempts at criminal activity rampant in our spam folders, CAUCE’s top priority is to get Canada’s anti-spam law enforced?

Canada’s anti-spam law is so riddled with problems it was passed in 2010 and has yet to go into effect.

Why? Because Canada’s lawmakers started on the premise that commercial email is bad and then carved out exemptions for certain pre-existing commercial and familial relationships.

But even with the exemptions, it’s still a terrible, needlessly destructive and dangerous law. It requires explicit permission—no more pre-checked boxes—and includes penalties of up to $1 million for individuals and $10 million for companies who fail to comply.

The law also gives individuals the right to sue. What could possibly go wrong there?

Moreover, it doesn’t grandfather in commercial email lists that were built legally before Canada’s anti-spam law was passed. As a result, once Canada’s anti-spam law begins getting enforced, companies sending email into Canada whose lists were built using processes that don’t meet the new standard will have to re-permission their files—translation: decimate them.

Supporters point out that once Canada’s anti-spam law goes into effect, companies have three years to whip their email files into shape—as if inevitable asset destruction is fine if it’s delayed by 36 months.

Supporters also claim that re-permissioning commercial email lists will nicely whittle them down to only people who really want to hear from the sender. Those supporters fail to appreciate the role inertia plays even in permission-based marketing.

And in any case, no one is arguing that a bunch of commercial email files won’t end up significantly smaller as a result of compliance with Canada’s anti-spam law or that compliance won’t involve costs. And to what purpose? From what harm will corporate compliance with Canada’s anti-spam law protect North American consumers?


The vast majority of the problem lies outside Canada’s jurisdiction and is confined to relatively few senders.

According to anti-spam outfit Spamhaus’s Register of Known Spam Operations, or ROKSO, list, just six out of 126 spam operations are in Canada. Also, according to Spamhaus, 80 percent of Internet spam can be traced “to a hard-core group of around 100 known spam operations, almost all of whom are listed in the ROKSO database.”

So metaphorically speaking, CAUCE’s current objective is to pull the pin off a legislative grenade, stuff it up corporate North America’s ass and watch it explode so they can get a feeling of accomplishment.

I have a great deal of respect for CAUCE president John Levine. I have interviewed him on a number of occasions. Our exchanges have always been cordial. He’s forgotten more about the Internet than I’ll ever know.

But if his organization’s overriding goal is to get Canada’s pointlessly dangerous anti-spam bill enforced, any support from any part of North America’s permission-based email marketing community is an act of self mutilation.


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: John Levine
Date: 2013-10-24 13:48:24
Subject: FUD

Hi, Ken. I helped write CASL. If you actually read the law, and compared it to the nonsense that the FUD-meisters have been spreading, you'd find no detectable resemblance. It's an opt-in law not unlike the ones in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, with a multi-year phase in and vast exceptions for existing relationships. The Canadian ESPs I know, including Inbox Marketer, have no problem with it.