Posts Tagged ‘compliance’

Get Thee to a Lawyer: What You Need to Know About Canada’s New Anti-Spam Law

Monday, January 27th, 2014
flicr user buggolo

flicr user buggolo

Last week, Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) held a webinar about Canada’s new anti-spam law. I attended the webinar, which was led by copyright and intellectual lawyer Barry Sookman.

Here’s the first thing you need to know: I am not a lawyer. The law is intricate, confounding, and complex, and this blog post should in no way be construed as legal advice. If you have any questions, consult a lawyer.

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) becomes effective as of July 1, 2014. Sookman says it is a four-part legislation:

  • Anti-Spam: Deals with more than just “spam” as we think of it. The law will apply to the transmission of commercial electronic messages, whether it’s “spam” or not.
  • Spyware and malware: The legislation has been drafted in very broad terms to prohibit installation of any computer program, whether it’s malware or benign software.
  • Amendment to a national privacy law that prohibits address and personal information harvesting. This includes automated programs that collect email addresses.
  • Amendment to the competition act: An anti-trust act regarding false or misleading misrepresentation that has now been augmented with provisions making it illegal for emails to include misrepresentations. The definitions are very broad, and even extend to URLs included in an email and the subject line

Here’s the other top thing you need to know: If your organization sends any electronic messages to Canadian citizens, your organization can be found liable, whether you are based in or out of Canada. If your organization is headquartered outside Canada but has affiliate offices in Canada, those affiliate offices, and any messages you send to them, fall under the scope of CASL.

It’s worth noting that the business community in Canada wanted much more time to implement compliance, as the July 1 deadline may not give enough time for many to comply, since developing a compliance program means considering a number of pieces of legislation and regulatory laws.

Not complying can bring hefty penalties: Sookman warns that after a hearing, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) can impose a monetary penalty of up to $10 million, and a private right of action can cost offending companies $1 million per day for breach of spam and malware provisions.

As I said before, the law is opaque and contradictory, so I’m not going to explain a lot of terminologies and provisions that Sookman explained. Instead, I’ll highlight a few very basic principles and once again encourage you to consult a lawyer.

  • Legislation dictates that organizations cannot send electronic messages unless the recipient has consented (there’s a lot of confusion behind express and implied consent, which is best explained by a lawyer). There must be a specific, prescribed unsubscribe option. This includes not just messages to email, but also to instant message and texts.
  • There are certain exceptions if your organization has an existing business relationship with the recipient, but when it comes to implied or express consent, there are many contradictory indications of when each applies.
  • The spyware/malware provisions deal with any computer programs. Sookman says that organizations need to be concerned about these provisions, as the requirements are not consistent with current business practices.
  • There is a general prohibition against a business installing programs on a computer system. If your organization has specific software clients need to run, this applies. You must acquire consent and change your websites, agreements, permissions, and download processes.

CASL makes the U.S.’s requirements look like an easy hurdle; it goes far beyond the scope of the U.S.’s CAN-SPAM Act, which includes requiring senders to tell recipients how to opt out of future emails and honoring those opt-out requests promptly. It’s likely that opt-outs will have far more prescriptions and specifications that those laid out by CAN-SPAM.

Sookman recommends that organizations begin with the following:

  • Ensuring the due diligence defense applies to them. This means that your organization takes all reasonable steps to develop a compliance program that applies even at board level, and that the organization has a policy to ensure regular updates and policy implementation. Sookman says that following guidelines may should like a reasonable way to follow due diligence, but a misunderstanding of the law will not help you establish a due diligence defense.
  • Conduct a review or survey of each department to identify current communications or software installation practices, methods of obtaining consent, and unsubscribe techniques.
  • Develop a plan to address gaps, establish procedures to ensure ongoing compliance and institutional monitoring of CASL activities
  • Start obtaining express consent ASAP
  • Check out the McCarthy Tetrault toolkit
  • Consult a lawyer

In short, CASL applies to a lot more organizations that I thought it would. There’s a good chance CASL applies to your organization. With less than six months until go-time, consult a lawyer and get moving.

Even if your organization has no affiliation with Canada, SIIA still provided access to a great lesson: we still have to pay attention, because it’s possible that if CASL is effective, the U.S. and other countries could follow suit and tighten regulations. Has your organization taken steps to comply with CASL? Do you think similar regulations could take hold in other countries should CASL prove effective?

BurrellesLuce Complimentary Webinar: Copyright Compliance – What Every Media Relations Professional Should Know

Friday, December 7th, 2012

BurrellesLuce Complimentary Webinar: Copyright Compliance - What Every Media Relations Professional Should KnowCopyright Compliance What Every Media Relations Professional Should Know.

When: Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Time: 1pm EST

Register Now!

As a communications or PR practitioner, you are under increasing pressure to prove the value of what you do. Now, with technology and the availability of digital content, the line between sharing and plagiarizing becomes increasingly blurred.

Anyone can pull material from the Internet, share it, and declare it their own. It is easy for organizations and professionals to unwittingly fall into the plagiarism trap. The consequences of copyright infringement also are serious and content providers are enforcing laws to protect and manage the rights of their content.

Join BurrellesLuce and Wilma K. Mathews, head of the IABC ethics committee and a respected faculty member at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication, for this 60-minute educational webinar, “Copyright Compliance: What Every Media Relations Professional Should Know.” 

In this webinar, Wilma will review plagiarism and copyright violations, using real-life examples to explain why it is important to educate yourself, your staff and employees about both.

During the session you will learn:

  • The difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement.
  • How the Internet is making everyone a plagiarist.
  • How writers may be putting their companies in jeopardy.
  • How to check for plagiarism or copyright infringement.

Register Now!

Johna Burke, senior vice president, BurrellesLuce

Space is limited. Sign up now for this free webinar, “Copyright Compliance: What Every Media Relations Professional Should Know.” If we are unable to accept your registration, an on-demand presentation will be available for review after the event at .


Wilma MathewsWilma K. Mathews is a fellow and accredited member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). Mathews currently serves as chair of the IABC Ethics Committee. She previously served as chair of the IABC Research Foundation and the Accreditation Council, and twice was a member of the IABC executive board. She is a Gold Quill winner for media relations and writing. She is co-author of On Deadline: Managing Media Relations.

BurrellesLuce Newsletter: Copyright – The Right Way to Use and Share Content in the Digital Age

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Copyright signWhen BurrellesLuce first launched its turnkey copyright compliance program in 2008, it also released a white paper on “Copyright Compliance: What Every Media Relations Professional Needs to Know.” The white paper helped to start an industry dialogue on copyright — addressing why compliance matters to communications professionals — and continues to serve as a basic primer on copyright law.

Fast forward two years and very little has changed in terms of copyright law itself. Copyright still legally protects original creative works such as: literary works, including articles from newspapers and magazines; songs, including words and music; plays and choreographed dances; art; motion pictures; sound records; architectural works, etc. Copyright exists from the moment a work is created (i.e., it doesn’t have to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to be protected.)

What has changed, however, is the position that content providers (i.e., publishers) have taken regarding copyright. This renewed focus on copyright and fair use directly impacts public relations professionals. Read more of this newsletter in the BurrellesLuce Resource Center.