Maryland Court Says All Your Spam Are Belong To Us

from the what-would-judge-wapner-do dept

A court in Maryland has ruled that spam sent from outside the state can violate its laws and fall under its jurisdiction, overturning an earlier decision and creating an interesting precedent regarding internet jurisdiction. We’ve noted before how the question of just whose laws apply on the net isn’t settled, with some places taking the view that if something can be viewed in their locale, it’s fair game. Not too many people are likely to get upset over a ruling that makes it easier to sue spammers, but the ruling can become problematic when it gets extended to other areas. It’s not hard to see the argument that if Maryland’s laws can apply to one internet activity — spam — they can apply to all others, as well. People already do jurisdiction shopping for libel cases, perhaps they’ll start doing it against spammers now too.

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Comments on “Maryland Court Says All Your Spam Are Belong To Us”

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Y Pennog Coch (profile) says:

Re: A simple case of 'push' versus 'pull'

Maryland has every right to declare spam as a crime within its jurisdiction – and this should not extend to other internet activities. This analogy might help:
Imagine that you’re walking in the New York countryside on the border with Canada. Looking north, you see a billboard with a message on it that is legal in Canada, but not in the US. Now that’s insensitive, offensive and may be cause for a diplomatic incident, but no crime has been committed.
The next day you’re out walking again. From the other side of the border, somebody throws a paper plane at you. You never get to see who, because they dash into a Canadian forest after throwing the plane. Unfolding the paper plane, you read the same message that was on the billboard yesterday. The unknown aviator has not committed any crime in Canada, but by sending an illegal message over the border he/she has committed a crime in New York state.
Blogs and websites are like the billboard. Spam is like the paper plane. Or at least, that’s how it should be.

Y Pennog Coch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: A simple case of 'push' versus 'pull'

Your counter-example is invalid. I’d like to see the look on your face when the mounties lock you up and remind you that homicide is illegal in both Canada and NY.
In the paper plane example, the message is carried by an object launched by a deliberate human act. Sue the aviator (if you can find him/her).
In the billboard example, the offending message is carried across the border by photons. To put a stop to that, you’d have to sue the sun.
If you had any capacity for logic, then you might have understood that an action can be both a crime and a non-crime, when its location straddles a jurisdictional boundary. You might also have realised that my being annoying does not allow you to infer that I’m a politician – I might be a lawyer 🙂
As it happens, I’m a programmer. But enough about me, you need some help for those violent fantasies :-p

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