Senators Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, recently introduced a bill, S 577, that would give states access to federal courts to enforce bans on interstate shipping of alcohol directly to consumers. Meanwhile, in many states that do allow direct shipping, wholesaler organizations -- threatened by the growth in Internet, phone and mail-order sales -- are pushing for legislation to prohibit such shipments or even make them felonious.
"If they can stop you from selling wine on the Internet, books and music are next," said Andy Sernovitz, president of Washington, D.C.-based AIM. "If wine retailers are complaining now, what happens when bookstores and travel agents put the squeeze on the Internet?"
AIM submitted testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee stating that Hatch's proposed legislation "unnecessarily chills the right of adults to purchase wine on the Web, unfairly discourages small wineries from selling their product nationwide and creates an additional federal remedy for illegal alcohol sales where a state and federal remedy already exists." The group has also launched an e-mail campaign to encourage its members to contact their legislators and express their opposition to the bill.
AIM's roster of more than 300 corporate members includes large media organizations, such as the New York Times and Chicago Tribune; software and computer technology firms, such as Intel and Lotus; providers of Internet-based services, such as Yahoo! and America Online; and companies that sell consumer products online, such as CDNow.
Why would the group join in a debate that has mostly attracted the attention of wine lovers and professionals in the wine and spirits industry? "It's an area that affects the Internet industry overall -- it has such far-reaching implications," said Ben Isaacson, AIM's vice president for strategic development. "We don't have much to say on wine, but we hope there won't be any limitations on interstate e-commerce."
To learn more about direct shipping and related legislation:
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