Be advised that as of July 1, 2005 – all ezine publishers or email broadcasters need to pay attention to new laws in Utah and Michigan.
“Child Protection Registry” laws are now in affect and the trend may well extend into all of the other states. These laws went into effect on July 1, 2005 and you must comply with them by August 1, 2005.
What this law means (in a nutshell) if you broadcast your ezine, newsletter or alike to anyone who is a “child” (regardless if they have opted in your database or double opted in), you must scrub their address through the registry database of Utah and Michigan. That will cost you $.005 per e-mail in Utah and $.007 per e-mail in Michigan.
How many e-mails do you have in your mailing database? Multiply that by $.005 and $.007. That’s how much it’s going to cost you to keep the government away from your business.
By the way, do you know who’s child in your database?
Yes, you’ve guessed it right. It means that you have to scrub your database each time you broadcast an e-mail to your database.
Interestingly enough, you don’t have to publish any objectionable content yourself. You just have to have a link to it someplace that maybe links to another link, and to another link, and to another link that contains the following areas of primary interest:
Alcohol & tobacco
Adult or obscene content
Drugs, pharmaceuticals, prescription drugs (illegal or not)
Finance related services such as mortgage, credit card, banking, etc.
Phishing or other scams
It’s not that anyone wants to market alcohol to kids – I have kids. It’s that this is a stupid and a cumbersome law that doesn’t solve the problem. It just creates a massive and a costly burden on email broadcasters. This law was not very well thought of.
Of course, the only people who will not comply with this law are the same scammers who didn’t care about the CAN-SPAM Act and continue to slam us with spam from remote corners of the planet.
Why doesn’t the government spend their energy finding these scammers instead of harassing us the legit marketers?
Do you see the problem here?
These two states have set-up Do Not Email Registries (like the DO Not Call Registry) for people to enter minors’ email addresses. But, it’s not just email addresses that belong to minors. People can also enter email addresses to which minors have access to. So, parents looking to stop spam can also input their addresses too, claiming their children can access their email.
You can NOT email these addresses any email (even if they’ve double-opted in your database), a material that contains links to which kids cannot legally see or respond to.
Let’s say you send out your article that contains only a link back to your site. You have Google AdSense (trying to make money) on your site displaying ads from sites that have links to these illegal items for kids. You just broke the law.
Even though your email contained absolutely nothing illegal for minors, and your site contains nothing illegal, and you were linking to what you thought was a perfectly acceptable site, you could be in trouble.
But, do you see even the bigger problem here?
The law is vague, overly broad, and creates a chilling effect on the exercise of basic first amendment rights. It is as dangerous as it is stupid because it gives parents the right to sue in a civil action. That means any of us are potential targets of greedy scamster parents who were just rewarded by the government “a right to get rich fast.”
Of course, as you would expect, the law carries criminal sanctions, too.
No one knows how far the Attorney Generals of Michigan and Utah will take these statutes. And it isn’t just the states’ Attorney Generals you have to worry about. Parents who will register their e-mail addresses for the soul purpose of filing lawsuits because that’s “their way of living.”
Do you think you comply with this law?
I don’t think so. If you’re an Internet marketer, you most likely promote other’s products and services, or have a resource section or AdSense on your site that links to a number of other websites. Therefore, you’re screwed. You’re stuck with only 3 options.
The “link to link to link” aspects of the legislation will make this play very vulnerable.
Option 1: If you cannot afford to evaluate your e-mail database list with the Do Not Email Registry of every state, in your e-mail broadcast do not include content related in any way to the topics of primary interest (listed above). And also, do not include any links. Just pure content. (This is out automatically for the Internet marketers).
Option 2: If you can’t pay with money, you have to pay with your time. Make sure non of your links in your e-mail broadcast are linking to links that are linking to another links and so on … that may lead to the “illegal content.” Sincerely, good luck there.
Option 3: Scrub your lists against the registry every single time you email.
So, what are the consequences here?
You can face legal action. You could face a civil suit brought by the attorney general of the state, by the parent and/or by the ISP. Thus a parent who wants to sue, because he or she has a grudge and wants to collect money, can certainly do so.
The government seems to have forgotten to protect us from these lowlife and ridiculous lawsuits that we hear of quite often nowadays.
I’m all for the safety of the children as I do anything to protect my children. I even donate money to children’s organizations. But, this law has its good sides and the side that wasn’t very well thought of. I wonder who had a major influence on it.
The Michigan law has the larger damages allowing $5,000 for each message received by a recipient or $250,000 for each day that the violation occurs.
Even worse, you could face a criminal suit. In Michigan the first violation is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year. The second violation is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 year. Utah is not much better.
So, what do you have to do if you’re an Internet marketer?
I don’t know about you but I won’t give up my Internet business all of a sudden and I do not want to face jail time in these states or even a fine because of an overzealous parent. Therefore, I am investigating how to make sure to get my businesses email lists compliant.