Appeared in the Toronto Star on December 7, 2013 as What Will Canada’s Anti-Spam Law Mean for Internet Users Long before sites such as Youtube and Twitter were even created, the Canadian government established a national task force to examine concerns associated with spam and spyware. The task force completed […]
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On December 15, 2010, the Canadian government (then described as the Harper Government) celebrated the granting of royal assent for the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act, Canada’s long overdue anti-spam legislation. The last step for the bill to take effect was to finalize the associated regulations. Passing those regulations ultimately proved more difficult than passing the law itself, as an onslaught of lobby groups used the regulatory process to try to delay, dilute, and ultimately kill the anti-spam law.
Nearly three years after the legislation received royal assent, Industry Minister James Moore today announced that the regulations are now final and the law will begin to take effect next year (the spam provisions take effect on July 1, 2014; the software provisions start on January 15, 2015). The finalized regulations involve further concessions to the lobby groups opposed to the legislation as they create a new exception for third party referrals (permitting a single referral without consent) and largely exempt charities from many of the new rules. The private right of action that would facilitate lawsuits to combat spam will be delayed until July 1, 2017. These issues were all extensively discussed and debated during the legislative process and there was no need for further changes.
While those changes are a disappointment, the far bigger story is that Canada finally has an anti-spam law grounded in an “opt-in” approach that requires marketers to obtain customer consent before sending commercial electronic messages.
Barry Sookman reports that a CRTC official advised a conference that the Industry Canada anti-spam regulations are now final and should be publicly available in about two weeks. The law will come into force in 2014.
For the past two years, I have been describing the government’s long-missing digital economy strategy as the Penske File, a Seinfeld reference to a non-existent work project. The government’s Seinfeldian approach to digital policies continued yesterday, with Industry Minister James Moore hosting a Festivus-like event on Canada’s anti-spam legislation. The anti-spam law was passed in 2010, but intense lobbying has delayed approval of the final regulations that are needed to bring the law into effect.
The by-invitation roundtable featured most of the business associations that have criticized the legislation along with several consumer/public interest representatives. Consistent with the Seinfeld episode on Festivus, the 90-minute event opened with the airing of grievances, providing the critics with an opportunity to deliver their concerns directly to the Minister. The consumer and public interest representatives spoke in favour of the legislation and of the need for the government to move quickly to finalize the regulations. While the government’s plans remain to be seen, Moore is clearly engaged on the issue and, given that the law was passed years ago, will hopefully demonstrate a feat of strength by bringing it into effect.
A draft of my comments (which were changed slightly in delivery) are posted below.
In May 2010, then-Industry Minister Tony Clement introduced anti-spam legislation that he admitted was long overdue. Clement acknowledged that “Canada is seen as a haven for spammers because of the gaps in our current legislation…a place where spammers can reside and inflict their damage around the world.” Despite heavy lobbying against the legislation by groups concerned with new rules on electronic marketing, the government pushed ahead, with the bill receiving all-party support and royal assent by the end of that year.
As my weekly technology law column notes (Toronto Star version, homepage version), two-and-a-half years later, the anti-spam law has still not taken effect, awaiting long-delayed final regulations that have been the target of an intensive campaign to water-down or repeal the legislation before it ever takes effect.
Last week, government officials disclosed that the best-case scenario for the law is that final regulations are released late this summer with the implementation of the law delayed until the fall of 2014. Moreover, many provisions may not become operational until at least 2017, eight years after the first anti-spam law bill was tabled in the House of Commons.