Best news I’ve heard this week

The Federal Trade Commission is considering a national no-call registry that would appear to put some real restrictions on telemarketers. The Direct Marketing Association hates it, so this must be good. Says their spokesbeing:

“The government may be overstepping its boundaries by spending taxpayer dollars to limit communication that is protected by the first amendment,” said H. Robert Wientzen, president of the Direct Marketing Association. He said the proposals could cost the telemarketing industry money and jobs by having companies relocate to other countries to avoid the regulations.

Wientzen said people who do not want to be called can request that their names be added his group’s list, which now has 4.1 million names. The bulk of telemarketers voluntarily participate in this service and abide by the list, he said.

First of all, advertising (which these sales calls are) has less First Amendment protection than, say, a weblog. Marketers are held to certain standards of truthfulness and accuracy that us just plain folks aren’t.

Second, the DMA’s no-call list is inherently flawed precisely because it’s voluntary. There’s nothing to compel a telemarketer to live by those rules. The fact that some do just makes them marginally less slimy.

Finally, why should the burden be on the private citizen to prevent these intrusions into their homes? The DMA’s assumtion is that unless you specifically say you don’t want to hear from them, you must want to hear from them. Why isn’t it the other way around? In other words, don’t call me, I’ll call you.

There’s nothing original about this opt-in versus opt-out argument – it’s the same tack the anti-spam crowd has taken all along. That’s the kind of law I’d really like to see pass. It’ll never happen, and maybe that is taking regulation too far. What’s being proposed here is realistically the best we’ll ever do. I’m OK with that.

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