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 its work in May 2005, unanimously recommending that the government introduce anti-spam legislation (I was a member of the task force). Four years later, then-Industry Minister Tony Clement tabled an anti-spam law, which underwent extensive committee review before receiving royal assent in December 2010.
My technology law column last week (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that while most expected the government to quickly bring the new law into force, the regulation-making process became bogged down by an intense lobbying effort designed to sow fear, doubt, and uncertainty about the legislation. Business groups relied upon implausible scenarios to argue that Canada would be placed at an economic disadvantage, despite the fact that government officials were able to identify over 100 other countries that have similar anti-spam regimes. The lobbying was a partial success, however, as the regulations went through two drafts and three more years of delay.
Almost a decade after Canada started down the path toward anti-spam legislation, Industry Minister James Moore announced earlier this month that the regulations are now final and the law will begin to take effect next year. There will be still yet more implementation delays – the anti-spam rules start on July 1, 2014, safeguards on software installations begin on January 15, 2015, and a private right of action that facilitates lawsuits to combat spam will be delayed until July 1, 2017 – but it appears that Canada will finally get an operational anti-spam law.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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