6 Trade Groups File Court Papers in Support of FSC

Rhett Pardon
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Numerous trade organizations have filed an amicus brief in support of the Free Speech Coalition’s suit against Utah’s Child Protection Registry.

The groups — the American Advertising Federation, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers Inc., the Email Service Provider Coalition, the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Freedom Foundation — submitted a 56-page brief Friday to the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, contending that the FSC should be granted a preliminary injunction that would disallow the registry.

“We’re extremely pleased that so many of these major groups that are in our space have decided to take a stand against this unwise move against free speech,” FSC Communications Director Tom Hymes told XBIZ. “This is really turning into an intramural softball game with this many players.”

Utah’s registry allows parents and others to register email addresses to which minors have “access,” and then prohibits emails from being sent from anywhere in the world to those addresses that advertise “harmful matter” or products or services minors cannot purchase. The law went into effect May 1.

Emailers can pay Unspam Registry Services Inc. to “scrub” their lists at a cost of 1/2 cent for every name on their list, according to the registry’s rules. Unspam Registry, which is named in the suit, was chosen by Utah to handle the act’s mission.

Led by the Electronic Freedom Foundation, the organizations, in their amicus brief, said they are particularly concerned with the first provision of the act.

“It effectively prohibits and criminalizes email advertisements and newsletters, which would otherwise be lawful, even as between adults, solely because they are sent in electronic form and might be accessed or viewed by a Utah minor,” the brief said. “No other form of advertising is prohibited in this manner, and there is no rational basis to treat email advertising in a different manner from print ads, billboards, TV commercials or other more traditional forms of marketing, or from other forms of advertising on the Internet, such as popup ads, banner ads or website hyperlinks.”

Claiming they are “not spammers,” the groups also said that the statute is too vague and that the registry “may actually expose Utah’s minors to more harmful and offensive content.”

But tantamount to their argument, the organizations say that the registry constitutes a significant and unjustified intrusion under Can-Spam and the Commerce Clause, and violates the 1st Amendment as well as the 14th Amendment, which outlines due process protections.

Both the FSC and defendants — Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Unspam Registry — are slated to file opposing briefs on the motion for preliminary injunction and the motion to dismiss July 31.

The case is Free Speech Coalition vs. Shurtleff, No. 2:05-cv-00949.