Virginia Supreme Court Changes Its Mind: Anti-Spamming Law Is Unconstitutional

from the on-second-thought... dept

Well, here’s a surprise. Just a few months ago, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the state’s anti-spamming law was constitutional. The case involved Jeremy Jaynes, who was convicted under the law and sentenced to nine years in prison. He appealed, claiming that the law was unconstitutional. As we noted when the Va. Supreme Court ruling came down, there were some big questions raised by the split court in determining whether this really was a violation of free speech rights — and Jaynes’ lawyers convinced the court to rehear the case — and, in a rather surprising move, the court has changed its mind.

The court has ruled that the anti-spamming law is, in fact, unconstitutional, as it’s a restriction on free speech. As we noted after the original ruling, it still seems like Jaynes could be brought up on charges of fraud, trespass, identity fraud, false advertising and many other charges, but for now, it appears that Virginia’s anti-spam law has been judged to go too far.

Declan McCullagh has a good analysis of why this is probably the right decision, even if it’s personally distasteful to let a spammer off.

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Comments on “Virginia Supreme Court Changes Its Mind: Anti-Spamming Law Is Unconstitutional”

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11 Comments
entropy (profile) says:

How did possible unconstitutional aspects affect the case?

It does not seem that they did, however, I’d have thought the spammer would have been prosecuted for fraud, etc. first, if the charges had been separated.

I can’t personally understand what this has to do with free speech; freedom of speech doesn’t mean one gets to yell in my ear, or dump things in my inbox, or abuse networks. I’d say that unsolicited bulk emailing of the Federalist Papers would be spam as well, even if I might enjoy a free electronic copy of such. I don’t think political or religious orgs should be able to email me, either, or have access to my email address in the first place. If I gave my consent, wittingly or not, at some point, then it is my own problem. Harvesting or random generation of email addresses is, however, complete BS.

I don’t know, they may want to change the wording of the statute, but I don’t see a whole lot that is wrong with it. I do have an open mind, though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How did possible unconstitutional aspects affect the case?

“Harvesting or random generation of email addresses is, however, complete BS.”

Seems to me it depends on how its done. Since its most often done by simply spidering the web, I have a hard time seeing how collecting publicaly available information, posted on a public network, could be illegal?

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