Canada: Using User-Generated Content In Online Contests - Playing By The Rules

Humans are naturally drawn to corporate contests, such as Tim Horton's Roll Up The Rim To Win® or McDonald's restaurants' MONOPOLY® game. Advertising contests such as these have long been used to promote business interests and drive public attention. With the advent of the Web, many of these contests have moved online and some now include user-generated content (UGC).

Contest organizers who choose to host their contests online and exploit UGC must abide by all the traditional legislative regimes designed to ensure fairness, transparency and legality of such contests. They must also pay strict attention to the additional complexities that stem from the online nature of the contest.

Statutory Requirements

Contests held to promote a particular corporation are subject to regulation at both the federal and provincial level. Relevant federal statutes include the Competition Act, Criminal Code, and Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).

Competition Act

The Competition Bureau has taken the position that the Competition Act provisions pertaining to false or misleading representations apply to Internet contests. Therefore, the same basic rules that govern traditional marketing practices apply to online contests, including the requirement of fair disclosure and the prohibitions on false and misleading advertising. The disclosure requirements include number and approximate value of the prizes, odds of winning, regional allocation of prizes, and contest closing date.

For contest disclaimers, the Competition Bureau states that it is not sufficient for contest disclaimers to be present. These disclaimers must also be "likely to be read." In determining whether a contest disclaimer is sufficient, the Competition Bureau looks at its location on the website, page layout, use of attention-grabbing devices, size of font, accessibility to users, and the appropriate use and location of hyperlinks. To ensure transparency and fairness for contestants, contest organizers should pay particular attention to these areas.

The Criminal Code

The trend in online contests is to require contestants to submit an artistic product: video, slogan or theme music. The Criminal Code contains a provision prohibiting the disposal of any "goods, wares or merchandise" by way of any contest in which contestants pay money or "other valuable consideration." The development and submission of UGC by contestants would likely be considered "other valuable consideration." To avoid violating the provision in the Criminal Code, contest organizers must provide a non-purchase option.

The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act

In executing any contest, organizers must adhere to PIPEDA, the federal privacy legislation, and all related provincial privacy legislative regimes. These laws require that contest organizers obtain consent for the collection, use, storage and disclosure of any personal information received through the administration of their contest.

Contestants should be informed, through the contest rules or entry form, of the ways their information will be used. The contest organizers should also advise contestants of their policies and practices relating to information security and destruction of information after the contest has wrapped up.

A common privacy issue that arises in the administration of online contests occurs when contest organizers ask participants to provide personal information about "friends" or other individuals, then use the information without the third party's consent.

Québec Rules

Contest organizers must meet additional requirements when operating a contest open to Québec residents. The Act respecting lotteries, publicity contests and amusement machines (Québec Lotteries Act) defines "publicity contest" very widely, and includes "any operation that results in the awarding of a prize." Therefore, contest organizers must be aware of and comply with the requirements in Québec Lotteries Act as well as the Charter of the French Language.

The Québec Lotteries Act imposes duties on virtually all publicity contests permitting participation by Québec residents, and also gives authority to the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux to create rules governing publicity contests in Québec.

The contest organizer must pay duties to the Régie, calculated on the value of the prizes and the contest's geographic participation base. The duties are equal to 10 per cent of the prize value for contests offered to Québec contestants exclusively, 3 per cent for Canadian contests open to Québec contestants and 0.5 per cent for all other contests open to Québec contestants.

Duties are payable upon filing required contest notice forms and contest advertising materials. For non-resident contest organizers, the Régie usually requires security be filed to ensure delivery of the prizes won by Québec residents.

In addition, regulations to the Consumer Protection Act set out mandatory content for the contest rules, and include contest notice, document retention and reporting requirements.

Finally, the Charter of the French Language legislates that all contest materials, including the contest rules and advertising, must be made available in French. A version of the rules or advertising in another language may also be published, provided that it is accompanied by a French version which is at least as prominent as the version in any other language.

Online Issues

Technical problems

In addition to complying with relevant legislation, a number of unique technical considerations arise in online contests and should be addressed. To minimize exposure for technical problems, contest rules should be drafted to:

  • limit contest organizers' liability for technical errors, accessibility of the website or inaccuracy of the information provided by the participants;
  • limit contest organizers' liability in the event of damage to users' computers;
  • address alternative ways to conclude the contest upon a server failure or inability to judge UGC contributions due to technical malfunction or issue; and
  • address issues surrounding the number of times a contestant can enter, as well as the age and geographic location of the contestant.

UGC considerations

If the organizer of the online contest intends to use UGC, a number of potential minefields must also be avoided. The following could all land contest organizers in hot water: soliciting or publishing submissions that disparage individuals, other companies or population groups, or submissions that depict unsafe or illegal activities or infringe copyright.

As mentioned in a previous TLQ article, Subway is currently suing Quiznos over a contest in which Quiznos invited the public to submit home-produced videos depicting Quiznos' sandwiches as superior to Subway's. We continue to monitor the progress of the Subway case to see if it will impact the extent a website can shape solicited UGC entries.

In another case, Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley v. LLC, the operator of a roommate-matching website was sued for violating housing discrimination laws. The website asks the subscriber a series of questions, including some about the person's sex and sexual orientation, then assembles a profile based on the responses. A US appeals court found that because the website operator materially contributed to the creation of a subscriber profile and was therefore an "information content provider," the operator was not entitled to immunity under the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

While the Fair Housing Council case did not involve an online contest, it did involve an aspect of UGC and represents a possible shift in the courts' interpretation of what constitutes an "information content provider."

McCarthy Tétrault Notes:

Jurisprudence in the areas of online contests and UGC continues to develop. Against this changing landscape, contest organizers capitalizing on the popularity of UGC by using it in contests would be advised to:

  • avoid contests that pit the sponsor's product against that of a competitor's;
  • provide tools that are neutral, such as technology platforms and online editing capabilities;
  • provide general contest parameters outlining the ad campaign's subject matter, judging guidelines and technical requirements, but avoid specific examples in an attempt to guide the contestants; and
  • include prohibitions in the contest rules on false, misleading, defamatory or fraudulent content.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions