CALL-L Listserv and Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

The Canadian Association of Law Libraries List (CALL-L) is an e-mail discussion list fostering an interest in and discussion on law librarianship in Canada. A message went out today from CALL-L list owner/manager Susan Jones at the University of New Brunswick to all subscribers asking us to “opt in” to being on the list.

This measure is being taken to comply with Canada’s new anti-spam legislation coming into force on July 1st. While the list itself is not a commercial vehicle, some of the messages posted may be interpreted as such. From the message to subscribers:

CALL-L is used by subscribers to distribute a variety of messages, including messages inviting other subscribers to register for webinars, renew CALL memberships, promote upcoming conferences, and offer books for the cost of shipping. Under Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), these types of messages may now be considered “commercial electronic messages”. To comply with CASL, which comes into force on July 1, 2014, I’m requesting the express consent of subscribers to receive commercial electronic messages via CALL-L.

Subscribers are being asked to respond directly to the list owner/manager by June 30th indicating consent to continue receiving messages from the list.

While there are exceptions in the legislation for associations sending messages to members, CALL-L is not an official communication vehicle for the Canadian Association of Law Libraries and membership is broader than just CALL/ACBD members. The list was created before this legislation was put into place, so this extra step is being taken to ensure compliance.

Information about the CALL-L list may be found on the CALL/ACBD website. Thanks to Susan Jones for coordinating us!


  1. Given that a person has to affirmatively apply to be on a list, isn’t that express consent? Why would the application to join, whenever made, not satisfy CASL?

    I run a listserv in which there are never, or just about never, any messages that can be considered commercial. No ads about conferences, no book sales … so I am not thinking of asking for consent, even if the first question were not answered to my satisfaction. Presumably the list owner has to keep all the subscription confirmations somewhere, too, though I suppose a drag-and-drop box on one’s email would work. One might have to keep suh a box indefinitely, though.

  2. It is certainly a grey area, John. On CALL/ACBD’s end, if the list did not take a measure such as this, the Association’s National Office and volunteers would not feel comfortable emailing invitations to things like the conference to the list. We would want to pick and choose what was posted since the penalties under CASL are quite big. It may seem like overkill but I am glad to see this measuring being taken in this instance. It may not be needed for all listservs.

    (To clarify for others, I am not a lawyer and what I have posted here should not be construed as legal advice).

  3. I think what is missing here is the fact that listervs are the original double-opt in email service. Not only must you originate an email message from an email client controlling the subscribing address, but the user must send an additional ‘ok’ message to the server just to be added to the distribution.

    As long as the service in question only uses this technique, and does not permit direct access to the database for manual uploads of email addresses, the system itself should be considered to have “explicit consent” embedded within it.

  4. actually, for my list, most people get on by asking me to put them on — but that’s a pretty obvious consent. Those who subscribe by sending a subscribe command to the listserver have to be accepted by me too (but I don’t refuse…).

    Occasionally people will write to say ‘please put my colleague on the list’, usually with a cc: to the colleague. Then the new member gets a notice from the list that he or she has been added. I suppose that’s an implied consent … but the original consent was to the person who asked me. I guess that could be proved, if push came to shove.

    Why would anyone complain, anyway, given that it’s really easy to unsubscribe (and again, those who leave the list generally ask me to take them off ….)

  5. I agree that for the discussion list people on most lists have well opted in. Even if people were added to the list, if there is not a commercial nature to the list I am guessing it is not a problem.

    In the case of the CALL-L list, though, have these same people already opted in as well to messages about various conferences from different organizations, webinars, books and the like which may be interpreted as commercial in nature by the legislation? This is the grey area. If it was purely conversation then this would not be a concern.