How The New Email Laws From Michigan and Utah Affect Ezine Publishers
By Christopher Knight
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Get your permission-based email lobby boots on... it's time to start writing your US state legislators about how poorly thought out the new laws that just went into effect in two US states today (before more states join the bandwagon).
Today, July 1st, new laws that supersede the CANSPAM act have gone into effect thanks to child-protection legislation from Michigan and Utah. This may be a case of well-meaning legislation that has gone too far, especially if you're an ezine publisher that lists information or links to sites that has information or ads that might be on the fringe areas of the law that are now illegal when sent to a childs email address.
I asked my friend, Anne P. Mitchell, President and CEO of the Institute for Spam and Internet Public Policy and Professor of Internet Law at Lincoln Law School of San Jose, to comment on this new legislation.
"The "Child Protection Registry" laws go into affect on Friday, July 1st, and apply to all senders of commercial email, whether solicited or not," said Mitchell. "And while the registries are in Michigan and Utah, they apply to any sender inside the United States or even who just have a presence in the United States."
"Email senders are starting to realize that these new laws take affect on Friday," explained Mitchell, "but many of them don't believe that the laws apply to them, and none of them understand what they need to do in order to comply. It's mass confusion out there."
Here is a partial list of the sectors that are at highest risk:
Alcohol & tobacco
Before you take the approach that I might have taken - which is the "who cares until they actually begin enforcing this law" approach, think again:
Parents can now bring about civil lawsuits under this law against anyone they think might be in violation.
"It doesn't matter that these laws are coming out of left field for most emailers, or whether or not they are fair or make sense. They're here, compliance is required, and failure to comply can result in criminal and civil penalties," Mitchell added.
But, they double or confirm opted into my list or better yet, they are a paid customer of mine…how can they possibly have a cause of action against me?
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 and rightfully so
Guess what: Doesn't matter if they opted in or even gave you money.
Michell said, "We've talked with several top tier email marketing firms, and email service providers, and they were all just stunned to learn that they need to start scrubbing their mailing lists against these registries next month or face criminal sanctions!"
This is can be far fetching, but covered under the law: Example: If you include a link to your site or a 3rd party site that contains forbidden content (even if it only shows up as a contextual ad), you could be liable.
To Be In Compliance:
To be in compliance, you'll have to run your list against their suppression list every 30 days for a cost of $0.007 USD per address (contact point) checked for each time it is checked against the Registry in Michigan and $0.005 USD per address in Utah. These rates could and probably will go up.
This can become absurdly expensive if more states get on board with these laws, not to mention how absurd the DNE (Do Not Email) list is in the first place. Did you notice that we do not have a US Federal DNE list? That's because FTC Chairman Tim Muris told reporters at a press conference recently that "Consumers will be spammed if we do a registry and spammed if we do not." Muris believed that anti-spam technologies like SPF/DomainKeys are more promising ways to deal with this problem... and I agree with him on that.
Can you image what will happen after the Michigan and Utah DNE registries are up and going - only to be hacked into and spammed by the very criminals they are setting this up to ban. As the parent of a child myself, you can be assured that I will not register his email address on any Federal or State DNE list as I believe it's my obligation to monitor and teach him right from wrong, -- it's not the State's obligation to do that.
"It's immaterial whether one agrees with these new laws or not," advises Mitchell, "Unless and until these laws are ruled invalid by a court, an emailer has only two choices to avoid getting into legal trouble: scrub their mailing lists against these registries once a month, or be sure that every single piece of email they send contains not even a hint of a link which someone could follow and find any of these forbidden products or services."
Anne's got a brand new compliance teleseminar on July 7th, 2005 worth checking out for only $59 USD. She knows her stuff when it comes to email compliance issues. See below for more info on it and how to sign up.
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This Ezine-Tip was submitted By Christopher Knight -- Email List Marketing Expert, author and entrepreneur.
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