E-Mailers Charged Under Michigan Law

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox has filed criminal and civil charges against two companies accused of sending inappropriate e-mails to children’s e-mail addresses registered with the state under Michigan’s Child Protection Registry Act.

The act, which took effect July 1, mandates that Michigan create and operate an e-mail address registry similar to current do-not-call lists to protect children from receiving e-mails promoting products and services that are restricted because of their age.

Senders are required to check the registry to remove children’s e-mail addresses before sending messages that advertise goods or services children cannot buy legally.

Utah has a similar law. Michigan’s registry law aims to protect children from the most offensive varieties of spam, Mr. Cox said.

The criminal charges are against RR Media Inc., Cathedral City, CA, and Data Stream Group Inc., Bonita Springs, FL. Mr. Cox said the charges are the first of their kind in the country and may subject the e-mailers to a fine of up to $10,000 and other penalties.

The defendants are alleged to have sent e-mails promoting gambling and alcohol to addresses registered under Michigan’s law.

The Protect MI Child Registry lets parents and others submit e-mail addresses, instant message addresses and other electronic contact points to which children in Michigan have access, according to the Michigan Public Service Commission, which administers the registry.

The law requires senders of e-mail promoting things such as alcohol, tobacco, gambling and pornography to electronically scrub their mailing lists against the registry, eliminating the registered e-mail addresses from mailing lists.

The cases follow an investigation by the Michigan attorney general’s office, which received complaints of inappropriate e-mail solicitations for gambling and alcohol purchases being sent to addresses registered as children’s contact points. Each corporation is charged with one count of violating the registry law.

In addition to the criminal cases, Mr. Cox filed civil actions against RR Media and Data Stream Group in Ingham County Circuit Court. These companion cases to the criminal actions seek injunctions against further violations and other statutory penalties.

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