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November 16, 2005

Update on Michigan and Utah Registries

I wanted to follow up on my earlier post last week regarding the Michigan Children's Protection Registry Act.

First piece of information is that as of November 16, 2005, the state of Michigan now expects compliance with their Michigan Children's Protection Registry Act (2004 PA 241).

While there was a pause in Lansing for the past two weeks, likely due to an FTC issued letter which addressed fundamental problems with the registry, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has now signed the latest version of the act.

The legislation calls for the operation of an online child registry which contains email addresses and other contact information for minors. It allows individuals to register email addresses and other contact points, such as Instant Message, addresses and phone numbers, which belong to, are controlled by, or are accessible to minors.

Marketers are then prohibited from sending content to addresses on the registry that contains material related to anything illegal for minors to purchase, view, possess, participate in or otherwise receive. The law prohibits sending content to any contact point that has been registered for more than 30 days, if the primary purpose of the message is to "directly or indirectly, advertise or otherwise link to a message that advertises a product or service" that is covered.

Marketers who send email containing material that could be inappropriate for minors are expected to scrub their lists against the registry once per month.

Other notable elements of the Michigan law:

While there is a lot more that can be discussed regarding this law, the most important thing today for email marketers who may need to comply to understand is that the registry is effective immediately.

We encourage anyone who potentially has to comply to discuss this with their legal and operations staffs and coordinate a compliance strategy.

These web pages for Utah and Michigan provide details on the language of the laws and the categories of marketers covered. They will also be updated with the latest information regarding compliance.



Posted by gcrgcr at 11:16 AM | Comments (0)

November 7, 2005

Concerns with Utah and Michigan Registries

Like many in the email marketing world, I've been keeping tabs on the Child Protection Registry initiatives in Michigan and Utah. It has been difficult to watch an effort which was based in good intentions get implemented in such a painfully bad way. I had my suspicions that these state laws wouldn’t go well and they really haven't.

To summarize the situation, over a year ago Michigan and Utah quietly passed Child Protection Registry statutes. The laws in both states are very similar. Each intend to prohibit particular types of offensive content that can be sent to registered contact points such as email and IM addresses.

Both laws list particular categories of material that are prohibited, things like gambling, tobacco, alcohol and pornography. Again, no one wants to send inappropriate material to anyone who doesn't want it, but particularly not to minors. However, the problems in the implementation are widespread and include:

Since the laws were drafted under the guise of child protection they were easily passed in both states. The email marketing industry initially took little notice or action. There was a broad presumption by most in the industry that these laws were pre-empted by the federal Can Spam Act of 2003. However, in August of this year, both laws took effect and the collective uproar began.

Many organizations have been lobbying since August against the registries operating. The Email Service Provider Coalition (ESPC) has been very active in both Utah and Michigan. Other trade organizations and freedom protection organizations have been commenting, lobbying, and even planning law suits.

There are numerous points of contention being relayed to the lawmakers in both states. Most deal with security and technology basics – rather than picking on the constitutionality or legitimacy of the law – though there are valid questions there as well. Often mentioned is the point that real spammers who are most prone to send offensive material are the least likely to comply.

Now, unexpected and probably unintended support comes by way of an FTC report which has surfaced. The report is an earlier response to a similar bill proposed in the state of Illinois last year. The 16-page letter emerged this week - and details item by item what a flawed idea the FTC thinks the registries are.

There are a number of sites reporting this latest development, you can read more here:


The ESPC has continued to work aggressively to raise concerns associated with the Utah and Michigan registries. The Michigan law has been postponed since August due to a typo. There are rumors coming out of Michigan that Governor Jennifer Granholm may sign the corrected legislation as early as this week, which would put the Michigan law back into effect.

It seems likely that protecting children from spam and offensive materials can be managed and achieved in other ways – without levying such a tax on email senders.

So, the saga continues to unfold, and like a bad car wreck, I can’t help but continue to watch to see just how ugly it may get.

Posted by gcrgcr at 2:20 PM | Comments (0)