The Secure Times

An online forum of the ABA Section of Antitrust Law's Privacy and Information Security Committee


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Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) – New Guidance on Providing Apps and Software

Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) targets more than just email and text messages 

In our previous post, we explained that on July 1, 2014, Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) had entered into force with respect to email, text and other “commercial electronic messages”.

CASL also targets “malware”.  It prohibits installing a “computer program” – including an app, widget, software, or other executable data – on a computer system (e.g. computer, device) unless the program is installed with consent and complies with disclosure requirements.  The provisions in CASL related to the installation of computer programs will come into force on January 15, 2015.

Application outside Canada

Like CASL’s email and text message provisions, the Act’s ”computer program” installation provisions apply to persons outside Canada.  A person contravenes the computer program provisions if the computer system (computer, device) is located in Canada at the relevant time (or if the person is in Canada or is acting under the direction of a person in Canada).  We wrote about CASL’s application outside of Canada here.

Penalties

The maximum penalty under CASL is $10 million for a violation of the Act by a corporation.  In certain circumstances, a person may enter into an “undertaking” to avoid a Notice of Violation.  Moreover, a private right of action is available to individuals as of July 1, 2017.

CASL’s broad scope leads to fundamental questions – how does it apply?

The broad legal terms “computer program”, “computer system” “install or cause to be installed” have raised many fundamental questions with industry stakeholders.  The CRTC – the Canadian authority charged with administering this new regime – seems to have gotten the message.  The first part of the CRTC’s response to FAQ #1 in its interpretation document CASL Requirements for Installing Computer Programs is “First off, don’t panic”.

New CRTC Guidance 

The CRTC has clarified some, but not all of the questions that industry stakeholders have raised.  CRTC Guidance does clarify the following.

  • Self-installed software is not covered under CASL.  CASL does not apply to owners or authorized users who are installing software on their own computer systems – for example, personal devices such as computers, mobile devices or tablets.
  • CASL does not apply to “offline installations“, for example, where a person installs a CD or DVD that is purchased at a store.
  • Where consent is required, it may be obtained from an employee (in an employment context); from the lessee of a computer (in a lease context); or from an individual (e.g. in a family context) where that individual has the “sole use” of the computer.
  • An “update or upgrade” – which benefits from blanket consent in certain cases under CASL – is “generally a replacement of software with a newer or better version”, or a version change.
  • Grandfathering – if a program (software, app, etc.) was installed on a person’s computer system before January 15, 2015, then you have implied consent until January 15, 2018 – unless the person opts out of future updates or upgrades.

Who is liable?

CRTC staff have clarified that as between the software developer and the software vendor (the “platform”), both may be liable under CASL.  To determine liability, the CRTC proposes to examine the following factors, on a case-by-case basis:

  • was their action a necessary cause leading to the installation?
  • was their action reasonably proximate to the installation?
  • was their action sufficiently important toward the end result of causing the installation of the computer program?

CRTC and Industry Canada staff have indicated that they will be publishing additional FAQs, in response to ongoing industry stakeholder questions.

See:  Step-by-Step: How CASL applies to software, apps and other “computer programs”

See also:  fightspam.gc.ca  and consider signing up for information updates through the site.

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Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) in force July 1

Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) enters into force on Canada Day, July 1.  It was passed in 2010 as a “made-in-Canada” solution to “drive spammers out of Canada“. 

Are you outside Canada?  It’s important to know that this law reaches beyond Canada’s borders.  CASL is already affecting businesses in the United States, Europe and elsewhere as they change their communications practices to send emails and other “commercial electronic messages” into Canada. 

As we have described in our presentation Comparing CASL to CAN-SPAM, the new law applies to messages that are accessed by a computer system in Canada.  That means that messages sent by a person, business or organization outside of Canada, to a person in Canada, are subject to the law.

CASL expressly provides for sharing information among the Government of Canada, the Canadian CASL enforcement agencies, and “the government of a foreign state” or international organization, for the purposes of administering CASL’s anti-spam (and other) provisions.  The MOU among the Canadian CASL enforcement agencies similarly references processes to share and disseminate information received from and provided to their foreign counterpart agencies. 

In a speech on June 26, the Chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Jean-Pierre Blais, emphasized the CRTC’s cooperation with its international counterparts to combat unlawful telemarketers, hackers and spammers that “often operate outside our borders“.  The Chairman specifically named “the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S., the Office of Communication (OFCOM) in the U.K., the Authority for Consumers and Markets in the Netherlands, the Australian Communications and Media Authority and others”, and noted that the CRTC has led or participated in many international networks on unlawful telecommunications.

Companies should also take note that a violation of CASL might also result in the CRTC exercising its so-called “name and shame” power, by posting the name of the offender and the violation on its online compliance and enforcement list.  The CRTC has for years published notices of violation with respect to its “Do Not Call List”, and is expected to take a similar approach for CASL notices of violation as well. 

The CRTC recently published a Compliance and Enforcement Bulletin on its Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules and on CASL, available here.  The CRTC recommends implementing a corporate compliance program as part of a due diligence defence: 

Commission staff may take into consideration the existence and implementation of an effective corporate compliance program if the business presents the program as part of a due diligence defence in response to an alleged violation of the Rules or CASL. Although the pre-existence of a corporate compliance program may not be sufficient as a  complete defence to allegations of violations under the Rules or CASL, a credible and effective documented program may enable a business to demonstrate that it took  reasonable steps to avoid contravening the law.


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Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation: A road map to “commercial electronic messages”

Let’s take stock of the information currently available on Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).  First, there is the Act itself.  Next, there are:

If you still have questions about the circumstances in which you can send a commercial electronic message (CEM) under CASL, you’re not alone. 

The following one-page overview is intended as a guide to the various scenarios contemplated under CASL.  As an “at a glance” reference, it is not intended as legal advice, and is not a substitute for consulting CASL and the various regulations and bulletins noted above.  It should, however, serve as a high level road-map through the maze.

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