Law

The Legal Risk of a Newsletter

I've been playing around with the idea of having a newsletter for a while now. I would love to be able to send all my readers an email when I post a new article. However, in an effort to fight spammers, regulation on sending bulk emails has gotten very strict. Although I understand the purpose, it places a huge burden on honest people wanting to manage a small mailing list. One mistake, and I could get fined in multiple countries for thousands of dollars. Lets take a look at the hurdles to creating a newsletter.

The need for a Physical Address

Both US and Canadian spam laws require senders to include a physical address. For commercial business, this rule makes perfect sense: it is trivial for them to include their physical location. For spammers, this rule is a minor hindrance, as they simply insert a random address : they don't want to be tracked down anyways. However, this has a huge impact on personal bloggers and people working from home: they need to publish their home address on every email they send. The only solution to get a P.O. Box, which represents an additional recurring cost.
The intention behind this rule is good, and I fully appreciate the accountability it introduces to bulk mailings. However, in application, the rule is simply a hindrance to smaller honest senders.

Compliance in every Country possible

All newsletter companies have the same policy: you must be compliant with the spam regulation of every country you might be sending emails to. Luckily, Canadian CASL and American CAN-SPAM laws are pretty similar, so this is not too difficult for a company operating only in North America. However, if you don't know the origin of your subscribers, you basically need to be complied with every regular out there. Cakemail has a nice collection of the 30 sets of regulation they know about, in addition to a general directive for all electronic communication in the European Union.

Too dangerous to send

I understand that if I am careful, the chances of getting hit by legal actions is very low. However, fighting any kind of legal action in any country would be prohibitive expensive. In essence, the concerns of operating a newsletter outweigh the benefits. For now, I'll continue posting updates on Social media and leave email to the spammers.

Image by Canada Post, 2015

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About Alexandre Denault

Veteran software developer and holds a PhD in Computer Science. Avid computer enthusiast (geek) who has been dabbling with technology ever since his Dad brought home an 8086 computer.