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CASL Frequently Asked Questions

On July 1, 2014 Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) and associated regulations come into force. The primary purpose of CASL is to control spam, which the legislation references as "commercial electronic messages." CASL also prohibits the installation of computer programs without consent (e.g. viruses, spyware) and the unauthorized altering of transmission data (e.g. phishing).

CASL will have a fairly modest impact on Dalhousie given most electronic messages sent on behalf of the university are not subject to the legislation. (see question 5 below.) Nonetheless, certain steps must be taken to ensure compliance for those messages that are subject to CASL.

The following FAQs are a generalization of the complex requirements under CASL and are intended to assist Dalhousie University staff and faculty members to understand the obligations under the legislation.

General Information

1. What is meant by an "electronic message" under CASL?

An electronic message is one sent to a specific electronic address, such as email, text messages or instant messages. Interactive two-way voice communications, fax messages or voice recordings sent to a telephone account are not considered to be electronic messages. Electronic messages to either individuals or multiple recipients are subject to CASL if they are commercial in nature; in other words, CASL is not limited to mass or group emails.

2. What types of electronic messages does CASL apply to?

CASL applies to commercial electronic messages sent for the purpose of encouraging participation in a commercial activity. General examples of commercial activities include: purchasing, selling, or leasing products, goods, services, or land; providing a business or investment opportunity; or advertising or promoting any of these activities. An electronic message requesting consent to send further commercial electronic messages is itself a commercial electronic message requiring CASL compliance.

3. What about social media?

The publication of blog posts or other publications on microblogging and social media sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) does not fall within the scope of CASL as they are not sent to specific electronic addresses.  This is not to be confused with texts or instant messages to which the legislation does apply, including those which may be available within a given social media platform.

4. What are the consequences of non-compliance?

The potential monetary penalties for noncompliance under CASL are severe and a private right of action exists for those who receive CEMs that do not meet CASL requirements.

Application To Dalhousie

5. Are Dalhousie’s activities commercial?

Dalhousie is a public education institution established by the Province, and not a commercial entity.  Messages concerning activities relating to Dalhousie's core mission of education, research, and service (together with administrative activities that support them) are not of a commercial character and as such CASL does not apply to messaging regarding these activities. This does not mean, however, that all electronic messages sent on behalf of the University are exempt from CASL. The following questions provide context for which electronic messages on behalf of the University may be subject to CASL.

6. Can I send messages to recruit students?

Yes. Electronic messages promoting or recruiting students into University programs are not commercial and therefore not subject to CASL.  Content relating to applications, admissions and registration processes is also permissible.

7. What about messages to recruit faculty and staff?

Similarly, faculty and staff recruitment is not commercial given the connection to core University activity.

8. What kind of messages can I send to students?

Messages to students providing information about academic matters (e.g. schedules, polices, instruction, examinations, course materials, emergencies) and messages relating to student life (e.g. student meal plans, student residences, sporting events) are not covered by CASL.

However, messages promoting goods or services offered by the University that are not closely connected to core activates (e.g. general merchandise in the bookstore), or messages promoting services offered by third parties, are subject to CASL and steps will need to be taken to comply. (see question 18)

9. What about messages to faculty and staff?

Internal communications between Dalhousie faculty and staff are not covered by CASL where they relate to the activities of the university, including those relating to university benefits and services (e.g. pension, health insurance, internal educational opportunities).  Messages promoting services offered by third parties are caught by CASL, and steps will need to be taken to comply. (see question 18)

10. What about messages concerning my personal business or activities?

University resources, including email, should not be used by faculty and staff for private business purposes  (Dalhousie's Acceptable Use Policy [PDF] and Policy on Conflict of Interest [PDF]).

11. What about University fundraising activities?

Electronic messages sent by or on behalf of Dalhousie, as a registered charity, for the primary purpose of raising funds are not subject to CASL (e.g. soliciting donations, offering tickets to dinners, golf tournaments, fundraising events).

12. Can I provide information to alumni or the general public regarding the activities of the University?

Yes, information or newsletters concerning university education, research and service activities are not commercial in nature.  However, if a newsletter in part promotes commercial activities (sale of university branded merchandise) it will require further steps to comply with CASL. (see question 18)

13. What about using electronic messages in relation to research activities?

Messages to funding agencies and collaborators are not covered, nor are communications with other researchers about research activities.  Messages surrounding recruitment of research participants and the collecting of research data are also fine. However, electronic messages for the purposes of providing or seeking IP licensing opportunities or partners for commercial purposes would require CASL compliance.

14. What about continuing education courses or workshops offered to the public?

Continuing education, executive education, workshops and certificate programs support Dalhousie's mission and as such are not subject to CASL.

15. Can I promote specific events?

Promoting events that relate to any core activities (e.g. student athletic or artistic events, academic conferences, and research workshops) is not commercial activity.  However, promoting events which are simply taking place at Dalhousie (e.g. non-university sporting events or artistic performances) would require compliance with CASL. (see question 18)

16. Can I contact an organizations or individuals concerning their particular line of business?

Yes, you can make an inquiry about products, goods or services offered by a third party without the need to comply with CASL.   Also, in the case of another organization (as opposed to individuals), CASL does not apply to electronic messages between Dalhousie and the recipient organization where there is a relationship (history of dealings, interactions, and communications) between Dalhousie and the recipient organization.

17. Can I reply to inquiries made to me?

Yes, you are free to respond to any inquiry (and subsequent follow up or clarifications in relation to the inquiry) without the need to be CASL compliant.

If CASL applies ...

18. What steps do I follow if my message may be a commercial electronic message subject to CASL?

If your message may be subject to CASL please follow the step by step instructions found under the CASL Decision Framework. (Dalhousie NetID/password required)

Last updated: 2014 Jun 26