Book Review: The Complete CAN-SPAM Act Practice Guide: Including Regulations, Case Law and Related Statutes

The Complete CAN-SPAM Act Practice Guide: Including Regulations, Case Law and Related Statutes.  Ian C. Ballon.  2008.  Thomson West Publishing.  422 pages.  Paperback.  $79.00

On July 3rd 2007, the largest damages award ever granted under the CAN-SPAM Act was handed down ($223,777,500.00 plus attorney fees) in the case of MySpace, Inc. v. Wallace, 498 F.Supp.2d 1293 (C.D. Cal. 2007).  The lead counsel for MySpace was Ian C. Ballon, an attorney who has been nationally recognized in the fields of intellectual property and new media.  In The Complete CAN-SPAM Act Practice Guide, Mr. Ballon discusses the CAN-SPAM Act in detail, utilizing his extensive knowledge of electronic media and federal/state law to provide potential litigators with the tools they need to be successful.  While Mr. Ballon is clearly the leading expert in his field and this book covers all the appropriate material, it is targeted to a very specific audience, and should be added to collections only of those with a very specific need. 

Although the book is listed on the Thomson West website as being 422 pages, there are only ninety-one pages of actual text.  The vast majority of the book is dedicated to the appendix, which consists of such things as the section of the U.S. Code containing the CAN-SPAM Act, sections of the C.F.R. providing CAN-SPAM regulations, various state anti-spam laws, and court documents from one of Mr. Ballon’s CAN-SPAM cases.  Chapter 1 provides an overview of the CAN-SPAM Act, and if you’re looking for a short, concise summary of the law, it alone will probably suit your needs.  Almost every sentence in this nine page opening chapter is footnoted, leaving even less room in this already short chapter for text (generally, at least one fourth of every page consists of nothing but footnotes; on some pages the footnotes cover almost three quarters of the page). 

Chapter 2 is the longest chapter of the book, and unfortunately, the most tedious.  Entitled “Scope of the Act’s Coverage,” this chapter discusses what types of businesses and messages are covered under the act.  While this information would be invaluable to someone who was interested in learning if a particular type of business is covered by the act, it does not make for interesting reading.  A researcher would be advised to glance through the table of contents and look for the specific type of business they are interested in, as the TOC subdivides the chapter (“2[B][ii] – Legally Mandated Notices,””2[B][vi] – Affiliated Third Parties”).  As with Chapter 1, this chapter is extensively footnoted, showing the reader exactly what sections of the U.S. Code, C.F.R., and case law Ballon used to determine if the business/type of transaction is covered by the act. 

The remaining chapters of the book are a much easier read, as they are in more of a discussion format, and not a dry list of items such as Chapter 2.  Everything is carefully footnoted by Ballon, and Chapter 12 (“State Laws Regulating Unsolicited Commercial E-mail”) covers statutes and case law from a variety of jurisdictions. 

Academic libraries would probably greatly benefit from having this book in their collection.  For students studying the CAN-SPAM Act or other issues relating to electronic media, this source could prove invaluable.  Practitioners in the field would also probably get great use from Ballon’s work, regardless of their particular jurisdiction.  However, if none of your patrons are interested in this field, it is unlikely this book will be the catalyst that sparks their interest. 

Lance Burke, Reference/Access Services Librarian, Elon School of Law.

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May 2009

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