State Kids’ No-E-Mail Bills Dead

Apr 05, 2006 12:01 AM  By

The kids’ do-not-e-mail juggernaut that for the last year has threatened to legal adult content as well is grinding to a halt—at least for now.

A bill in Georgia that would have established so-called child protection do-not-e-mail registry died last week. A similar bill in Connecticut was gutted. Similar bills in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Hawaii are also either dead or languishing. And an Illinois kids’ no-e-mail bill was also killed earlier this year.

Though child do-not e-mail registries in Utah and Michigan still pose significant threats to e-mail containing legal adult content, other states allowing their registry bills to die or gutting them indicates the tide may be turning in marketers’ favor.

Trevor Hughes, executive director of the E-mail Sender and Provider Coalition (ESPC), is cautiously optimistic. However, he says, it is not known where else Unspam—the company that has been lobbying for state child no-e-mail registries and getting the contracts to run them—may be lobbying.

“We will always be in sort of a football-ready stance to respond to these [bills] as quickly as we can,” he says. “But we’re very satisfied that in the six legislative battles we’ve had this year we’ve been successful in educating policy makers as to the risks and marketplace effects of these proposals.”

Hughes estimated that ESPC members made between 400 and 500 phone calls to state legislators to try and head off their do-not-e-mail bills.

Georgia’s bill, SB 425, failed to pass last week and as a result is dead, at least until the Georgia legislature’s next session in 2007. An assistant to the Georgia bill’s sponsor, Republican Greg Goggans, said she didn’t know if he plans to reintroduce the bill next year. She did not call back by deadline.

A Connecticut bill that would have established a kids’ no-e-mail registry, SB 46, was gutted so that now it calls for Connecticut’s attorney general and division of consumer protection to study whether a registry is viable. Connecticut legislators are reportedly concerned e-mail addresses on the registries could fall into the wrong hands and put children’s e-mail addresses at risk—a concern that marketers have been raising since Michigan and Utah established child no-e-mail registries last year.

Twin child no-e-mail bills in Iowa’s House and Senate died in February. Iowa Democrat Steve Warnstadt indicated in an e-mail he will not reintroduce the same bill next year but left open to interpretation whether or not he’ll try for another bill establishing a do-not-e-mail registry. “I will look for ways to address the concern, but will not pursue the same language as contained in SF 2178,” he said.

Wisconsin’s child no-e-mail bill—which is aimed only at sexually explicit messages—is sitting in the state’s joint committee on finance, a committee that may not even meet again this session, says Luke Bacher, an assistant to the bill’s main sponsor, Republican Brett Davis. “Right now the bill’s status is unclear,” Bacher says.

Hawaii’s bill failed to meet a March 9 deadline to cross over into the state’s Senate and, as a result has died, as well.

So-called child protection do-not-e-mail registries are in effect in Utah and Michigan. They allow parents and guardians to register minors e-mail addresses and other “contact points” as off limits to material aimed at adults. The laws are ostensibly aimed at protecting children from pornography, but are so loosely written that they include all material it is illegal for minors to view or buy. Moreover, they give parents the right to sue. As a result, many marketers believe they could get sued in those states for pitches containing references to such products as automobiles and airplane glue.

Pornography group the Free Speech Coalition is suing Utah trying to gets its registry law overturned.