Spam-blocking law is delayed for two weeks

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A Utah law meant to protect children from unsolicited pornography e-mails and scheduled to go into effect today will be delayed for two weeks.

Last year, lawmakers signed off on legislation establishing a "child protection registry" that allows Utahns to register e-mail addresses with a state contractor who will then block online marketers from e-mailing them solicitations for porn or other materials harmful to minors, such as alcohol or tobacco. The law was supposed to go into effect today.

But after problems finalizing the contract, Salt Lake City-based Unspam asked for an extension, Consumer Protection Director Francine Giani said. So Utah's registry will go online July 15. A similar Michigan law will go into effect today.

Under the law, Unspam will charge online marketers to "scrub" their e-mail lists of prohibited addresses. The brainchild of two Utah attorneys, Unspam formed when Ben Dahl and Matthew Prince got fed up with the amount of porn e-mails they received, Unspam attorney Pat Shea said.

The company helped then-Delta Republican Rep. Mike Styler draft the 2004 legislation.

Giani says she already has fielded complaints from non-adult businesses like car-rental companies, prescription drug vendors and hotel registration sites who solicit through e-mail. They worry their e-mail advertisements will be blocked.

Anne Mitchell, from the Institute for Spam and Internet Public Safety, worries many commercial e-mailers will be caught unaware.

"We've talked with several top-tier e-mail marketing firms and e-mail service providers and they were all just stunned to learn that they need to start scrubbing their mailing lists against these registries next month or face criminal sanctions," Mitchell told The Associated Press.

Giani says Utah's law might need to be tweaked during the next legislative session to accommodate such companies. Michigan's law is written more narrowly to target e-mail drug and porn pitches.

"I am looking forward to this kickoff date with fear and trepidation," Giani said. "We were not involved in writing it. We were just the agency to get it."

Several other laws will take effect today, including the state's nearly $9 billion budget.


-The Associated Press contributed to this report