Sunday, February 10, 2013

Will anti-spam legislation endanger magazine gift subscriptions?

Michael Geist, the University of Ottawa law professor said  in a recent blog posting that the magazine industry and other industry groups such as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Marketing Association and the Entertainment Software Association of Canada were trying to legalize the secret installation of programs in Canadians' computers to monitor their activities.

His post was ostensibly in reaction to a submission made by the Coalition of Business and Technology Associations, a collaboration of various industry groups, including Magazines Canada, commenting on the federal government's proposed anti-spam legislation (CASL).

The group's 34-page document to Industry Canada essentially asked that there be some exemptions from the draft regulations. 
Geist counters that such exemptions would "gut" the legislation. 

Of particular interest to magazine publishers, however, is a parallel submission that Magazines Canada made to Industry Canada concerning CASL. It says requiring consumer "opt-in" consent for certain kinds of magazine marketing would do serious damage to the industry and some of its longstanding practices. It says that, in fact, there are already well-constructed safeguards existing which provide for "opt-out" and "unsubscribe" tools and that the regulations are so unclear they could result in forbidding such usual practices as offering gift subscriptions. 

Gift subscriptions are a common practice,  appreciated by consumers and an important revenue driver. These subscriptions are bought by the donor and sent by the publisher to the gift recipient (who is then a subscriber). At subscription renewal time, the donor may choose not renew the gift. At this point, the publisher approaches the recipient/subscriber to renew their subscription.Under IC and CRTC regulations, there are concerns and uncertainties that need to be addressed:
  • Can the donor send the initial email to a publisher to request or pay for a gift subscription?
  • Once the donor has paid, what rights does the publisher have to actually send a commercial electronic message to the recipient of the subscription?
In the long and detailed submission which is posted on the Magazines Canada website, it also suggests that the legislation, first drafted in 2000, does not reflect current industry practices when it comes to installation of magazine content on mobile devices, something that is increasingly a focus of publishers. 

It should be noted that in an earlier 2009 submission about Bill C-27, the Electronic Commerce Protection Act. Magazines Canada made some of the same points and, though it was generally in support of the legislation, it worried that the provisions 
"would prevent the marketing of new products and services to an audience that would otherwise be receptive to learning about them. This would prevent Canadian businesses from marketing their products and services effectively; it would prevent individuals and groups with a legitimate interest in these products from learning about them. Ultimately, this would compromise Canadian competitiveness and innovation, which underpin the country‚Äôs economy."

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