View Full Version : If you run an e-mail list you *need* to read this

06-30-2005, 03:42 PM
I use a third party to run my opt-in e-mail lists so I was notified about this today. I know many of your send your e-mail from your own servers so you may not be aware of new laws in Utah and Michigan that carry felony charges, fines, and jail time for violations. These laws go in effect July 1st -- tommorow.

This law sets up something similar to the "Do not Call" registry -- except it is a list of minor's e-mail address's.

From the ISIPP (http://www.isipp.com/child-protection-email-address-registries.php) -- "Both Michigan's and Utah's laws prohibit an email marketer from sending email to any email address or domain on the registry, even if the email is otherwise solicited, if the email contains material or links to material which is otherwise illegal to provide to minors."

Material that is illegal to provide to minors? Think because you don't mail porno this doesn't apply to you -- think again.

MarketingSherpa (http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3023) takes a look at this law, here is what they say:
"o Obvious stuff -- porn, gambling, pharmaceutical offers, phishing, Nigerian scams, alcohol, tobacco, etc.
o Less obvious stuff -- financial services (credit card, banking, and mortgage offers), automotive marketing, dating and matchmaking services, etc."

As you can see, this can cover just about anything. Lets say you run a tanning salon and local laws prohibit anyone under 16 from tanning. You send an e-mail to a 13 year old offering a free tan coupon, you may be violating this law.

Don't live in the US? Do you do business with anyone in the US? If you are a member of an affiliate program in the US, or even Adsense, plantiffs could go after that revenue for damages.

These laws suck, but I'm only expecting to see more of them.

06-30-2005, 05:43 PM
I heard of that law about 4 days ago. I think it's a great law and it's agreat opportunity to get a spam free mailbox, wish I could register one of those accounts myself.

06-30-2005, 05:49 PM
I wouldn't have a problem with it except for the "links to places that link to" part.

What if the content of the site you're linking to changes between when you send out your newsletter and when people read it?

What if the site is too large to manually check. For instance Slashdot, there has got to be a link to something bad somewhere on slashdot, so you can't link to Slashdot at all?

Also what is a link? If I send a text email with a URL and the email client turns that URL into a link does that count, I did not send the link after all? Or is any URL or web address considered a link in this law?

06-30-2005, 06:22 PM
this is a scary law indeed. I wonder how it will play out in the courts.

06-30-2005, 07:04 PM
Yes, these laws have the potential to screw any e-mailer over both criminally and in civil court.

Here is an excerpt from an article on Clickz (http://www.clickz.com/news/article.php/3516736) :
"Initial readings of the laws were that they only impacted e-mails promoting gambling or pornography, but further readings made it appear that the scope could be far broader," said Brooks Dobbs, DoubleClick's director of privacy technology. "They can include things like car rentals, travel, hotels, automotives, credit cards or any other goods or service that a minor may be legally prohibited from purchasing, possessing or entering into."

Are minors legally prohibited from using Adsense? The possibilites are endless.

I just shutdown one of my e-mail lists 15 minutes ago, which is very unfortunate considering the amount of time I have invested in that project.

To be blunt, I'm pissed that some cultist way out in Utah can pass some possibly unconstitutional law that could send me to prison for years until it is struck down.

06-30-2005, 07:24 PM
I don't think these laws will hold up too long if thats the case (with Adsense).

Companies like Google, msft, and others won't let that stand.

07-01-2005, 04:54 PM
There was a guy that was put in prison for 2 lifetime sentences for sending out 14% of the world's spyware/adware/spam

I'd say that you'd not be in violation of this law if you said (in the Terms and Conditions for signing up for the newsletter) that they needed to be above 18 to sign up for the newsletter if they live in those areas. And you should also always include that little tidbit about your ability to cahnge the terms wehenever you want to with or without notice.

07-02-2005, 08:42 AM
Wrong, it doesn't matter.

If you send an e-mail with "forbidden/illegal content to minors" to a someone on the list it doesn't matter; you are violating the law. It doesn't matter how they opted in.

My biggest concern is I expect many, if not all of the schools in Utah and Michigan to use this. These are where the real zealots are. If some kid signs up for my newsletter in the school library, as soon as my autoresponder for the double opt-in sends a message I'm violating the law.

I'm particularly concerned because the content is attractive to teens and I get e-mails all the time; I'd estimate at leat 50% are under 18. Basically its for an underground sport -- not illegal, but in some localities it may be illegal for minors. I can't track down ever city and townships laws in Michigan and Utah -- besides these things change every day.

07-02-2005, 05:30 PM
Well, I don't believe that if you don't actually include any content that's for anyone above 18 in your actual autoresponder opt-in email, or your email saying that you're no longer able to deliver the newsletter to people below 18 in those places and if they're under that age '[click here] to unsubscribe from the newsletter'.

I'm also not quite sure on how well this law could actually hold up in court, as it appears to be very poorly thought out. I'd make a joke, but hey, I'm tired.