An Insider’s Look at Utah’s Failed HB 450

By Eric Goldman

Perry Clegg is a Utah IP attorney and the 2009 chair of the Utah State Bar’s Cyberlaw Section. A few months ago, he wrote an article entitled “Insight on Utah Senate’s Sedation of HB 450,” which provides his assessment of why HB 450–Utah’s latest legislative attack on online advertising–failed to pass the Utah Senate this year.

The article implies that HB 450 failed in part due to in-fighting among various influential folks in Utah, perhaps caused by some bruised feelings/egos. With slicker and more inclusive politicking in the future, these influencers are poised to rally behind a similar future regulation.

As a result, the article provides some support for why I think Utah will attack online advertising a fourth time. Indeed, the article quotes a third party as saying that “the bill’s opponents should either propose a compromise solution or expect some form of this bill to pass next year. Senate leadership apparently believed that there were not enough votes to pass it this year, but that they could gather the votes to pass it by next year.”

What I find most amazing is that there appears to be broad insider consensus that some type of Utah regulation of online advertising makes sense. As the article says, “the Utah legislature is generally behind HB 450’s policy but want to make sure they do their homework so the policy is implemented using the right language.” In most other places around in the country, most policy-makers recognize the illogic and futility of trying to reshape global online advertising to meet state specifications. The pro-regulatory Utahns seem to see the world differently, and many of us who don’t live in Utah simply cannot understand why the Utah legislature keeps picking a fight that it’s almost certain to lose in the courts, even if legislation passes. I have no rational explanation for this.

In any case, I will be closely watching the Utah legislature in February 2010 to see what shenanigans they might be trying anew.