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Indiana Child No-Email Registry Hits a Snag

4/26/11

By Ken Magill

Marketers of material inappropriate for minors scored a near miss in Indiana last week.

A bill that would have created a so-called child protection do-not-email list in the Hoosier State is headed for a legislative summer study committee, according to Indiana’s NewsAndTribune.com.

Dubbed HB 1418, the bill includes crippling fees for marketers.

After passing Indiana’s House with no opposition, HB 1418 stalled in the state’s Senate after drawing opposition from the email marketing industry.

State Sen. Richard Bray, a Republican from Martinsville who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee where the House bill languished, said the legislation needed more scrutiny before it could become law, according to NewsAndTribune.com.

Among his concerns are that the database created by the child-protection registry could fall into the wrong hands. “Then we’d really have a problem,” Bray said, according to NewsAndTribune.com.

Indiana isn’t the first state to consider such legislation.

Georgia, Iowa, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Illinois and Hawaii considered child-protection do-not-email laws several years ago, but let the bills die in 2006.

Currently, two states have child-no-email laws in effect: Utah and Michigan.

Those laws established registries allowing parents and guardians to list minors’ e-mail addresses and other “contact points” as off limits to e-mail content and links to content illegal for minors to view or buy.

Marketers of adult-oriented material, such as gambling services and firearms, are supposed to scrub their e-mail lists against these registries for $5 per thousand names screened in Utah and $7 per thousand names in Michigan.

Indiana’s bill is much like the child no-email laws in Utah and Michigan, but where Utah charges 0.005 cents per address screened—or $5 per thousand—and Michigan charges 0.007 cents per address screened—or $7 per thousand—Indiana’s bill would require marketers to pay 3 cents per address screened—or $30 per thousand—up to $72,000 a year.

While efforts to stop child no-email bills have been successful in most of the states where they’ve been introduced, efforts to overturn those that have been enacted have failed. For example, online pornography trade group Free Speech Coalition sued Utah in 2005 in an attempt to get the state’s child no-email law overturned. The suit was dismissed in 2009.

Author’s note: Child no-email registries were a bad idea in 2005 and they’re a bad idea now. They can’t possibly be kept secure.

No matter how hack-proof a child no-contact list is, all it would take is one bad guy at one company to have a large list scrubbed and then compare the scrubbed list to the original list to get a deliverable, verified list of minors.

Child do-not-email registries do nothing to protect kids from offensive email and pile needless financial burdens on law-abiding marketers. Marketers who are the problem won’t use the registries.

The amazing thing is we’ve had to have this debate for more than five years.

Here’s to hoping Indiana’s legislators recognize the ridiculousness of child no-email laws before it’s too late.

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