House File 489 - IntroducedA Bill ForAn Act 1relating to civil liability for commercial entities who
2publish or distribute material harmful to minors on the
3internet, and providing penalties.
4BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF IOWA:
1   Section 1.  NEW SECTION.  235G.1  Definitions.
   2As used in this chapter, unless context otherwise requires:
   31.  “Commercial entity” includes corporations, limited
4liability companies, partnerships, limited partnerships, sole
5proprietorships, or other legally recognized entities.
   62.  “Distribute” means to issue, sell, give, provide,
7deliver, transfer, transmute, circulate, or disseminate by any
8means.
   93.  “Material harmful to minors” means all of the following:
   10a.  Any material that the average person, applying
11contemporary community standards would find, taking the
12material as a whole and with respect to minors, is designed to
13appeal to, or is designed to pander to, the prurient interest.
   14b.  Any material that exploits, is devoted to, or principally
15consists of descriptions of actual, simulated, or animated
16displays or depictions of any of the following, in a manner
17patently offensive with respect to minors:
   18(1)  Pubic hair, anus, vulva, genitals, or nipple of the
19female breast.
   20(2)  Touching, caressing, or fondling of nipples, breasts,
21buttocks, anuses, or genitals.
   22(3)  Sexual intercourse, masturbation, sodomy, bestiality,
23oral copulation, flagellation, excretory functions,
24exhibitions, or any other sexual act.
   25c.  The material taken as a whole lacks serious literary,
26artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.
   274.  “Minor” means a person under the age of eighteen.
   285.  “News-gathering organization” means any of the following:
   29a.  An employee of a newspaper, news publication, or news
30source, printed or on an online or mobile platform, of current
31news and public interest, while operating as an employee, who
32can provide documentation of such employment.
   33b.  An employee of a radio broadcast station, television
34broadcast station, cable television operator, or wire service
35while operating as an employee, who can provide documentation
-1-1of such employment.
   26.  “Publish” means to communicate or make information
3available to another person or entity on a publicly available
4internet website.
   57.  “Reasonable age verification methods” means verifying that
6the person seeking to access the material is eighteen years of
7age or older by any of the following methods:
   8a.  Providing a digitized identification card or mobile
9identification.
   10b.  Requiring the person attempting to access the material to
11comply with a commercial age verification system that verifies
12the material through one or more of the following:
   13(1)  Government-issued identification.
   14(2)  Any commercially reasonable method that relies on
15public or private transactional data to verify that the age of
16the person attempting to access the information is at least
17eighteen years of age or older.
   188.  “Substantial portion” means more than thirty-three
19and one-third percent of total material on a website that
20constitutes material harmful to minors.
   219.  “Transactional data” means a sequence of information
22that documents an exchange, agreement, or transfer between
23an individual, commercial entity, or third party used for
24the purpose of satisfying a request or event. “Transactional
25data”
may include but is not limited to records from mortgage,
26education, and employment entities.
27   Sec. 2.  NEW SECTION.  235G.2  Civil liability for publishers
28and distributors of material harmful to minors.
   291.  a.  Any commercial entity that knowingly and
30intentionally publishes or distributes material harmful
31to minors on the internet from a website that contains
32a substantial portion of such material shall be held
33civilly liable if the entity fails to perform reasonable
34age verification methods to verify the age of individuals
35attempting to access the material.
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   1b.  Any commercial entity or third party that performs the
2required age verification shall not retain any identifying
3information about the individual after access has been granted
4to the material.
   5c.  (1)  Any commercial entity that is found to have violated
6this section shall be civilly liable to an individual for
7damages resulting from a minor’s accessing the material,
8including court costs and reasonable attorney fees as ordered
9by the court.
   10(2)  A commercial entity that is found to have knowingly
11retained identifying information of the individual after access
12has been granted to the individual shall be civilly liable
13to the individual for damages resulting from retaining the
14identifying information, including court costs and reasonable
15attorney fees as ordered by the court.
   162.  a.  This section shall not apply to any bona fide
17news or public interest broadcast, website video, report, or
18event and shall not be construed to affect the rights of any
19news-gathering organizations.
   20b.  An internet service provider, or its affiliates or
21subsidiaries, a search engine, or a cloud service provider
22shall not be in violation of the provisions of this section
23solely for providing access or a connection to or from a
24website or other information or content on the internet
25or to or from a facility, system, or network not under
26that provider’s control to the extent such provider is
27not responsible for the creation of the content of the
28communication that constitutes material harmful to minors.
29   Sec. 3.  NEW SECTION.  235G.3  Civil remedy — parent or legal
30guardian.
   311.  A parent or legal guardian of a minor may institute a
32civil action for damages in the amount of seventy-five thousand
33dollars for each violation of section 235G.2.
   342.  A court shall award the prevailing party in an action
35under this section court costs, reasonable attorney fees, and
-3-1expert witness fees.
2EXPLANATION
3The inclusion of this explanation does not constitute agreement with
4the explanation’s substance by the members of the general assembly.
   5This bill relates to civil liability for commercial entities
6who publish or distribute material harmful to minors on the
7internet.
   8The bill provides any commercial entity that knowingly
9and intentionally publishes or distributes material harmful
10to minors on the internet from a website that contains
11a substantial portion of such material shall be held
12civilly liable if the entity fails to perform reasonable
13age verification methods to verify the age of individuals
14attempting to access the material. Any commercial entity that
15is found in violation shall be civilly liable to an individual
16for damages resulting from a minor’s accessing the material,
17including court costs and reasonable attorney fees as ordered
18by the court.
   19The bill provides that a commercial entity or third party
20that performs the required age verification shall not retain
21any identifying information of the individual after access has
22been granted to the material. A commercial entity that is
23found to have knowingly retained identifying information of
24the individual after access has been granted to the individual
25shall be civilly liable to the individual for damages resulting
26from retaining the identifying information, including court
27costs and reasonable attorney fees as ordered by the court.
   28The bill provides that the requirements do not apply to
29any bona fide news or public interest broadcast, website
30video, report, or event and shall not be construed to affect
31the rights of any news-gathering organizations. No internet
32service provider, search engine, or cloud service provider
33shall be held to have violated the provisions of the bill to
34the extent such provider is not responsible for the creation
35of the content of the communication that constitutes material
-4-1harmful to minors.
   2The bill provides a civil remedy for a parent or legal
3guardian of a minor for damages in the amount of $75,000 for
4each violation, and the prevailing party shall be awarded court
5costs, reasonable attorney fees, and expert witness fees.
   6The bill provides definitions for “commercial entity”,
7“distribute”, “material harmful to minors”, “minor”,
8“news-gathering organization”, “publish”, “reasonable
9age verification methods”, “substantial portion”, and
10“transactional data”.
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