Friday, 1 July 2005

Problems ahead for direct mailers: new state laws in MI and UT

Michigan and Utah have both enacted similar laws that purport to protect children from seeing certain content in email. The laws each create a separate, state-wide "Do Not Contact" suppression list, that will be available to direct marketers for a monthly fee. If marketers send email to addresses in these lists, they can be heavily fined or gaoled if the email contains "illegal" content, or if it links to such content.

Some direct marketers are livid about this move. As Brian Livingston of the Windows Secrets newsletter wrote, the laws "...make it a crime for our newsletter to link to any site containing ads for alcohol, tobacco, credit-card and financial accounts, mortgages, car rentals, gambling, and the myriad other things that minors aren't supposed to have. Since we can't predict what ads or subjects might appear on all of the sites we link to, don't sign up for these Do Not Contact lists or we may have to write a future issue from a cellblock."

The laws apply to all marketers sending to residents of MI or UT, no matter how clear the existing business or opt in relationship. They're also not superseded by CAN-SPAM. Although well-meaning, these laws will do very little to protect children from spammers, but will do much to increase the costs and risks of legitimate business.

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