Dear Sir or Madam,
My name is W and I am a alcohol marketer in Western IL. That being said, I wanted to send you the press release I prepared after our state’s Liquor Control Commission dramatically limiting our speech and how much we can grow our business, please spread the word about the abuse outlined below as much as possible. Everyone here is scared of the Liquor Control Commission but I felt that someone needed to speak out about this abuse of the 1st Amendment they are perpetrating, I just ask that you would leave my name out of any story you do on the subject, you may refer to me as a “beer marketer in Western IL” and you may contact me though. I have included the Trade Practices Paper 2 (the primary source) as part of the following press release which I have also attached as a .rtf document:
CONTACT: W. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
STATE OF ILLINOIS STOMPS ON FREE SPEECH
Illinois Liquor Control Commission Limits Social Network Speech of Alcohol Distributors
In a memorandum dated April 26th, the Illinois Liquor Control Commission issued an opinion on state alcohol distributors’ use of social networks like facebook, twitter, myspace, foursquare, and youtube to market specials in bars and retail stores to persons of legal drinking age. By giving this new interpretation on the 1934 Liquor Control Act, they have dramatically limited the use of social networks by state distributors to reach persons of legal drinking with news relevant to them about their favorite brands.
The Illinois Liquor Control Commission based these limitations not on trying to protect minors from this marketing but on the “value” clause of the 1934 Law, which states that no IL distributor can give anything of value to a customer. They say a tweet or a facebook post and the like are “things of value” to the distributor’s customers. The following is their “Trade Practice Policy #2” verbatim released by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission on distributors and social networking:
“TPP-2 Specific items or activities which have been reviewed by the Commission for “of value” violations
“…12) The listing of retail liquor licensees carrying the products of a manufacturer or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer on the manufacturer’s or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer’s website
The Commission has received requests from certain manufacturers and distributor, importing distributor or foreign importers of alcoholic liquors if the listing of the names and addresses of retail liquor licensees carrying the products of a manufacturer or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer for sale on the manufacturer’s or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer’s website is a violation of the “of value” provisions of the Liquor Control Act of 1934.
Sections 5/6-4, 5/6-5 and 5/6-6 of the Liquor Control Act, the so-called “of value” or “tied house” provisions generally prohibit ownership/licensing relationships, the extension of credit and the providing of various types of advertising materials unless excepted in the said sections.
It is the Commission’s considered opinion that the listing of the names and addresses of all retail liquor licensees who carry the products for sale of a manufacturer or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer may be listed on the manufacturer’s and/or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer’s websites, subject to the following conditions:
1) The retailer contacts the manufacturer, distributor or importing distributor or foreign importer to have its business information included in the retailer listing.
2) The retailer listing shall include only the business name, business address and telephone number. The inclusion of E-mail or website addresses is prohibited.
3) The retailer listing does not provide specific product information, but rather is a general statement that the retailers listed carry the products of the manufacturer or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer.
4) The retailer listing shall include all retail licensees carrying the manufacturer’s or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer’s products, which listing may be on a city, town or village basis, or zip codes, or by any system which assures that all retailers are listed.
5) The listing shall include no retailer information other than referenced in these subsections, and “sales” or “product promotions” or the like are strictly prohibited.
6) The inclusion of any and all retailers on the manufacturer’s or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer’s website shall be at no direct or indirect cost to the retailer.
7) The manufacturer’s, non-resident dealer’s, distributor’s, importing distributor’s or foreign importer’s website may provide a “link” to a website of any retail licensee, provided such linking is made available to all retailers requesting it.
The Commission publishes this opinion with the express understanding that the purpose of such retailer listings is to provide truthful, accurate and up-to-date information to the ultimate consumer concerning the availability of alcoholic beverages.
In regard to Social Networks, the above would apply. The Commission also indicated that it is considered “free advertising,” and therefore giving something of value, if a distributor posts/tweets any status update on its social network page that relates specifically toward one retailer. For example, it would be considered a violation to state some of the following:
• Follow me to Joe’s for a Bud Light!
• Grab a Miller Lite at Shooters – Wings only 50¢ each all day!
• I’ve checked-in at Jimbo’s. Having an Old Style with Jimbo’s famous chili
• Heinekens $2 all day at Ray’s BBQ”
Distributors are allowed to give signage away for free to their customers. These signs cost money to design and print, therefore the larger the distributor the more signage they can get out. If the Illinois Liquor Control Commission were truly interested in “fairness” as the law says they are, why aren’t they regulating paper signage as part of the “value” clause?
Social networking costs no money. Neither the distributor nor the distributor’s customers pay for these services; furthermore, anyone can do them. Larger distributors do not have the advantage here, as all that is needed is an understanding of how these networks work, a computer, and an internet connection, and many distributors in IL are smaller family owned and operated small businesses.
This will harm commerce in the alcohol industry in this state in already horrible economic times as well. More and more people get their product news on many things from social networking pages like facebook pages. All these rules regulating subjective things like “fairness” only serve to confuse the business owner and make conducting everyday business harder. People will go across state lines to buy their alcohol and follow distributors in states free to use social networking in a totally unencumbered way. The state tax revenues will thus shrink.
A further issue arises with this new interpretation of the law. The Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly stated that the written word is protected speech (see Central Hudson Gas & Elec. Corp. v. Public Service Comm’n 1980 (which explicitly protects the 1st Amendment rights of advertisers), Gitlow v. New York 1925, Schecter Poultry Corp. v The United States 1933, Island Trees School District v. Pico 1982, NY Times v United States 1971, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan 1964). The First Amendment itself states that “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech OR THE PRESS.” Further, Tinker v Des Moines (1969) makes the First Amendment applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment.
. The State of Illinois’ own Constitution under Article One Section Four states: “All persons may speak, write and publish freely, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty. In trials for libel, both civil and criminal, the truth, when published
with good motives and for justifiable ends, shall be a
The great majority of social networking is done through the use of the written word. A tweet, a facebook post, a foursquare tip. These are all simply written words on the internet. How is this not protected speech then? The state of Illinois is stomping on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the state’s own Constitution by instating this patently illegal and unreasonable regulation of social networking use by alcohol distributors.
Thank you so much for your time, consideration, and help in defending free speech and free commerce by spreading this!
Call your elected officials, please. We the People should not tolerate such an abridgement of our freedom!