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article imageCASL compliant? Email Marketers Breakfast with Shaun Brown Special

By Rob Campbell     Jan 23, 2014 in Business
Toronto - On Thursday Jan 23rd, Shaun Brown told a gathering of two hundred email marketers his thoughts on how the CRTC will enforce CASL, Canada's Anti - Spam Legislation, which has received Royal Assent and takes effect July 1st 2014.
Email spam is a victim-full crime. Today our email inboxes are perpetually deluged with offers sent by marketers we don’t know, for goods and services that are not related to our life or business needs. And it must stop, because it wastes peoples' time.
As it happens, Canadian politicians actually did something about it three years ago. Back in December 2010 the Feds passed new laws governing the sending of Commercial Email Messages over Canadian computer networks. Known simply as CASL, the Canadian Anti Spam Legislation is set to impose stiff fines for anyone caught 'spamming' email addresses they don't know with unsolicited commercial messages.
The legislation has taken three years to implement, in part because the CRTC has the onerous task of enforcing the legal code, and that's a big job. With fines ranging from $1 to $200 per email per issuance, you can imagine how this massive deterrent makes everyone a little uneasy. Even honest email marketers are concerned they might run afoul of the code. Think on it for a minute: what if you're caught sending out non-CASL-compliant emails to 20,000 recipients? The resulting fine would certainly ruin your business.
Enter Shaun Brown, he's one of the lawyers that helped draft the new legislation. When it was announced that he'd be giving a free seminar in Toronto there was a lot of interest, and on Thurs Jan 23rd over two hundred people battled rush hour traffic, and freezing cold temperatures (minus -18) to get to the Toronto Reference Library for the talk.
After a warm introduction by Michael Grieves CEO of Vigorate Digital email marketing, and a brief opener by Natasha Nanji, Canadian Marketing Association, Manager of Regulatory Affairs, the featured speaker Shaun Brown took the podium.
Shaun started by describing CASL and how it evolved to become law in 2014. He revealed that the legislation is ten years in the making, and by way of explanation he spoke about the challenges the CRTC will have enforcing these new laws. Shaun did a good job sharing what he imagines to be the perspective of the CRTC on various types of CASL infractions. Today Mr Brown works for nNovation LLP, but back in 2006 when the government first started drafting the legal code, he worked at Industry Canada, and was part of the legal team assigned to this task. He's been working on or around the text ever since, and he would frequently say a line or two was 'near to his heart', or reveal that was a section he championed and why. And so when, as happened once, he didn't know the answer to something, we all collectively realized that we'd reached the front lines of the Government's thinking, and anything beyond the scope of Shaun's knowledge was probably something that would require a legal precedent to answer definitively.
What is a Commercial Electronic Message (CEM) exactly?
Much of the discussion centered on the key question. Shaun described how the act states that any message is considered commercial if 'one of its purposes is to persuade readers to engage in a commercial activity'. And he drew particular notice to the use of the words 'one of its purposes', which differs from today's Can-Spam law that puts too narrow a definition on commercial mail (because today marketers can add non commercial info and dilute the message's business content, making it exempt from CanSpam rules - not anymore).
Other key elements of CASL are the considerations around 'express consent' and 'implied consent'. During the question and answer period that followed the forty minute seminar, someone asked Shaun if giving their business card at a networking event was considered to giving consent to be emailed later? And Shaun said yes absolutely; that action would be considered express consent to be emailed, while someone picking up your business card off the table is NOT express or even implied consent, but if that person was to visit your website, and see your email address conspicuously listed there, he could email you as that is implied consent.
CASL requires the sender of a commercial electronic email to obtain one type pf permission of another BEFORE they’re allowed to send to email to any recipient. In addition, the law mandates commercial emails contain a truthful header, and not be misleading in any way. The law requires proper identification of the sending party. According to the Canadian government, any email sent both to and from any Canadian computer, mailbox or network falls under the jurisdiction of CASL.
Prosecuting CASL Violations
CASL comes into effect July 1st 2014, and according to Shaun Brown the first cases prosecuted by the CRTC will probably be easy wins for the government to set precedent and prove the law has teeth and email spammers should beware; but then what? Will CASL also have a chilling affect on email marketing? That's to be determined.
More about CASL, Shaun Brown, email marketing, Toronto, Vigorate
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