Virginia Anti-Spam Law Struck Down

Today, the Virginia Supreme Court struck down its state anti-spam law as unconstitutional.

The Virginia anti-spam law had significant impact, so this decision significantly weakens the defenses against spam. The law was one of the strongest in the nation. (It actually provided criminal penalties for the worst abuses.) Also, many of the large network providers (think AOL and Verizon) have network hubs there, so a lot of email communications were subject to it.

The case in question was brought against Jeremy Jaynes for his massive spam attack on AOL users. The mail passed through AOL mail servers located in Virginia, thus making them subject to Virginia state law.

An AP news article says:

The court unanimously agreed with Jeremy Jaynes' argument that the law violates the free-speech protections of the First Amendment because it does not just restrict commercial e-mails. Most other states also have anti-spam laws, and there is a federal CAN-SPAM Act as well.

The Virginia law ''is unconstitutionally overbroad on its face because it prohibits the anonymous transmission of all unsolicited bulk e-mails, including those containing political, religious or other speech protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,'' Justice G. Steven Agee wrote.

The anti-spam community is responding more with a sigh than outrage. There is a general belief that the Virginia law was not as well written as might be desired, which made it susceptible to this sort of challenge.

There is, however, concern that the court confused "anonymous transmission" with "fraudulent transmission". You may have a right to speak anonymously, but you shouldn't have a right to use fraudulent means to obscure your identity, especially if it involves the use of innocent third parties.

I haven't seen the text of the Virgina law or the court decision, so I don't really have an opinion on whether I agree or disagree with this turn of events. I am, of course, disappointed that our laws continue to favor spammers and bulk emailers and not Internet users and network owners.

Read the full article here: Virginia Court Strikes Down Anti-Spam Law.


Comments have been closed for this entry.


While I hate spammers just as much as the next guy, I have to applaud this decision.

The issue I have is we live in a time when civil rights are ever more oppressed. It seems as if though every court ruling of late has been against civil liberties.

I think the main distinction this law needs is to differentiate "commercial" and "non-commercial".

The idea behind the ruling is to protect anonymous transmition of religious, political or other "non-commercial" issues. The line has to be drawn, and this particular commenter believes it should be at the commercial level.