Groups Seek Injunction Against Maine Predatory Marketing Law

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A lawsuit was filed last night in a Maine U.S. District Court against the so-called Maine Predatory Marketing Law, seeking a permanent injunction.

The law, which would take effect Sept. 12, prevents marketers from collecting or sharing health or other personally identifiable information from minors, defined as 18 and under. According to Dan Jaffe, executive vice president of government relations, for the Association of National Advertisers, which supports the suit, says the law has "very damaging effects on advertisers and media."

The petitions, the Maine Independent Colleges Association, Maine Press Association. MetChoice, and Reed Elsevier (parent company of Multichannel News), filed the suit, claiming the law was overbroad and a violation of the First Amendment and a preemption of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act which, Jaffe points out, sets the bar for data-collection restrictions at 13, not 18.

They argue the law impermissibly restricts commercial speech and restricts Internet commerce outside the state whether or not it occurs "wholly outside of Maine."

According to the petition, the bill "makes it unlawful to "knowingly collect or receive health-related information or personal information for marketing purposes from a minor without first obtaining verifiable parental consent of that minor's parent or legal guardian."

They aver that the term "personal information" is defined so broadly that it will prevent them from even collecting the names of minors for marketing purposes.

Colleges are concerned that it will prevent them from collecting information from prospective students and hinder their ability to market to them.

The Maine Press Association says it could keep them from publishing information in the routing coverage of sports, student honor roles or "other activities involving minors...The MPA believes that its members have the right to ask minors for their names and addresses for legitimate purposes, such as confirming a subscription or a letter to the editor."

"The legislation is well-meaning," said Jaffe, but "extraordinarily sweeping. We are very hopeful that the courts will strike it down on a series of grounds." He says if it is not, it will impose "multimillions of dollars in costs to marketers around the country."

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