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Virginia Supreme Court Rules Against Anti-Spam Law

It's unclear how a Virginia Supreme Court ruling may influence other state and federal laws, but the court on Friday struck down a Virginia law that prohibits the sending of unsolicited e-mail.

The court's ruling called the anti-spam law unconstitutionally overbroad, saying that it impinges on First Amendment freedom of speech rights. The law barred the sending anonymous e-mails related to politics and religion, the court said.

The court also overturned the 2004 conviction of the first person tried and convicted of a spam e-mail felony. Jeremy Jaynes, a North Carolinian who appealed that conviction to the court, had been charged with using AOL servers in Loudon County, Va. to send millions of spam e-mails. He had been convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison.

Other states, although not all 50, have also enacted anti-spam legislation. A federal law, the CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) Act, was enacted in 2004. CAN-SPAM penalizes spammers and companies whose products are advertised in spam. It gives consumers the right to ask e-mailers to stop spamming them.

The Federal Trade Commission enforces the CAN-SPAM Act and the Department of Justice can impose criminal sanctions. Other federal and state agencies can also enforce the law under their jurisdiction and, importantly, companies that provide Internet access can also sue violators.

About the Author

Jim Barthold is a freelance writer based in Delanco, N.J. covering a variety of technology subjects.

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