Utah's Child Protection Registry is basically a do-not-call list for your child's e-mail account and mobile phone. The registry, www.kidsregistry.utah.gov, is a web site that tells Web-based businesses not to send promotions for pornography or other adult-related solicitations to the e-mail addresses or cell phone numbers on the list. The information is encrypted to protect it from hackers.
Businesses that do not comply with Utah's law face potential felony charges and civil and criminal penalties of $1,000 to $5,000 per message. E-mail senders that wish to comply with Utah law are charged one-half cent for each address they check against the registry, each time they check. These charges cover the cost of maintaining the registry and enforcing the law. Presently, there are about 175,000 e-mail addresses now registered.
But what seems a fairly straight-forward and voluntary means to help protect children against pornography or other prohibited e-mail messages is under attack by the adult entertainment industry and others who claim the registry unduly burdens interstate commerce and violates the First Amendment, among other things. A lawsuit against the state of Utah and Unspam, a Park City company under contract with the state to administer the registry, is pending in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake.
One would think the idea that consumers have a right not to have ideas forced upon them is a basic part of the American way of life. In fact, it is a way of life that enjoys some court precedence. Similar restrictions were established and upheld in the 1960s when the adult entertainment industry was caught mailing items to potential customers. That same principle applies here, albeit via modern technology. Parents, schools and others are registering e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers because they don't want inappropriate and objectionable information foisted upon children via e-mail and cell phones. They're voluntarily placing this information on a web site so they can opt out of solicitations for pornography, alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, gambling, prostitution and any other products or services that minors are prohibited by law from purchasing, viewing, possessing or taking part in.
Such a registry in no way prohibits the manufacture or chills the marketing of these businesses. They can continue to market to adult customers. A registry ought to enable them to better target age-appropriate customers.
While the intent of the registry is just, protecting Utah's Child Protection and Registry Law will be a steep challenge for the state, considering the deep pockets of the adult entertainment industry. That industry probably figures that, if it can shut down Utah' registry, it can readily do so elsewhere. That means Utah needs to stand its ground.