Utah Cites Adult Companies Under Child Protection Registry Law

Michael Hayes
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Operating under the state’s controversial Child Protection Registry law, Utah consumer protection officials have cited four companies for allegedly sending email solicitations to minors for websites connected to gambling, alcohol and pornography.

Citations were issued against Singapore-based SoftestGirls.com for $20,000 and U.K.-based SmoothBeer.com for $2,500. Fines also were issued to two gambling sites — DOS Media Now of Encinitas, Calif., and Golden Arch Casinos of Overland Park, Kansas, for $5,000 and $2,500, respectively.

"This has become a very serious problem," Commerce Department Executive Director Francine Giani said. "It's a big issue for us, but parents can play an important role in this process, too, by knowing and being aware of what their children are doing on the Internet."

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 one-half 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.

The Free Speech Coalition has filed suit in U.S. District Court challenging the constitutionality of the law.

Judge Dale Kimball has set a Nov. 9 hearing on the coalition's motion for an injunction, and the state's request to dismiss the coalition's lawsuit.

Jerome Mooney, who will argue the case for the FSC, said he was surprised that Utah officials had decided to issue the citations when the statute itself was being challenged.

"There are important constitutional [free speech] issues involved here," he said. "And the big difference at the end of the day is that the nature of the Internet is so international that the more narrowly you try to regulate it, the more problems you create."

A host of trade groups have filed amicus briefs in the case, including 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.

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