April 16, 2007 | By corynne mcsherry

Consumer Groups to Utah AG: Don't Waste Taxpayer Money on Unconstitutional, Anti-Consumer Keyword Law

Now we've heard everything. Utah State Senator Dan Eastman -- who quietly ushered a ban on online comparative advertising through the state senate -- has taken to calling sponsored links to such advertising "identity theft." But as Santa Clara University School of Law Professor Eric Goldman puts it: "Identity theft occurs when someone makes a false representation, but this law bans competitive keyword advertising that is completely truthful and does not confuse anyone." Deceptive advertisers, of course, can already be held liable under trademark and consumer protection law.

Eastman seems to be hoping that if he insists often enough that the bill is "pro-business," Utah citizens will forget that it seems primarily designed to impede their access to accurate information about goods and services and waste taxpayer dollars on defending an anti-consumer law that will never pass First Amendment muster. But while those flaws don't worry Eastman, they should put Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff on alert. EFF, along with Public Citizen, Public Knowledge and Professor Goldman, have sent a public letter to Shurtleff asking him to stay implementation of the law due to its harmful effects on consumers as well as its numerous constitutional problems. It's Shurtleff's job to protect his office's time -- and taxpayer money -- from poor legislation like this.

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