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Indiana E-Mail Advertising Bill – a Trifecta of Bad

We see a lot of bad proposed Internet laws, but even for us it’s rare to see a bill that hits the trifecta of being bad for businesses, bad for state taxpayers and bad for the very people it’s theoretically intended to protect.

It’s hard to cram that much bad into one bill but an Indiana senator found a way.

We were back in Indianapolis earlier this week opposing SB 344, an e-mail registry designed to stop advertisements to children, but actually places them in greater danger while costing in-state businesses up to $72,000 a year.

You may remember this from our February 2012 iAWFUL list.  If passed, this bill would establish stiff fines for companies that  e-mail to registered minors ads for products that minors aren’t legally allowed to purchase.

As with so many bad Internet laws, it sounds ok…until you take even a moment to think about its implications.

As we noted in our blog post the last time this bill came up for debate, the law would criminalize a stunning range of benign, commonplace advertising practices.

The law would criminalize a stunning range of benign, commonplace advertising practices.

E-mails about a kid’s favorite beer-sponsored NASCAR driver? Illegal. Grocery-store circulars? Illegal. E-mail specials from your kid’s favorite family restaurant? Illegal.

Should this law pass, Indiana businesses will wake up on the day it takes effect to the most draconian advertising regulations in the country.

If passed, advertisers would be required to pay for checking their e-mail lists against the for-profit registry before sending any e-mail that might trigger the law.

If the idea of a single company warehousing the email addresses of thousands of children makes you nervous, you are not alone. The Federal Trade Commission has expressed concern that such “do-not-contact” registries could inadvertently expose kids’ email addresses to sexual predators.

And through all of this badness, Indiana taxpayers get to foot the bill, not only for the cost of running an ineffective – and potentially dangerous – registry, but also for defending against the inevitable court challenges to this vague, overbroad prohibition on legitimate speech.

Seems like a bad deal to me.