FSC Suit That Sought to Block Utah Registry Is Dismissed

Oct 5, 2009 11:45 PM PST
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A federal judge on Monday dismissed a suit waged by the Free Speech Coalition over Utah’s Child Protection Registry.

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

Emailers can pay Unspam Registry to “scrub” their lists at a cost of 1/2 cent for every name on their list, according to the registry’s rules.

The FSC filed suit in 2006 against Unspam Registry, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Consumer Protection Director Kevin V. Olsen, contending to the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City that the registry is preempted by the federal Can-Spam Act and that it violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the 1st Amendment of the Constitution and the Utah Constitution.

The FSC also contended that the registry constitutes an impermissible prior restraint, violates the expressive privacy of members and imposes an unconstitutional burden on protected expression, among other arguments.

Shurtleff in a statement late Monday said that “the door is officially shut to anyone who wants to send porn to families and children in Utah."

"The registry actually helps business owners if they truly want adult-oriented material to only go to adults who are not registered with the state program," he said.

U.S. Judge Clark Waddoups dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice after a stipulated agreement was reached by both parties. Terms of that deal have not been made public.

FSC Executive Director Diane Duke said the organization learned through discovery that most of the complaints rested more on the drug, alcohol and tobacco industries, as well as the male-enhancement drugs business, and not the adult entertainment industry.

She also said that Utah has not been able to recover any fines from companies that they prosecuted.

“The program is a complete failure,” Duke said. “No state with any fiscal intelligence whatsoever would even consider such a program. That is all we needed to know from the litigation so we moved to dismiss”

The Child Protection Registry is similar to the do-not-call list and can be used for children or anyone who does not want to receive adult-oriented messages. More than 340,000 Utahns have signed up for the free service to block their addresses.

Businesses that send adult-oriented messages are required to pay a small fee and scrub their lists of any addresses on the registry; marketers who fail to remove registered addresses can face felony charges and substantial civil and criminal fines.

"My goal now is to take the registry nationwide," Shurtleff said. "This legal victory means other states will follow Utah's lead and stop pornographers from contacting children."

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