Va. Supreme Court Holds Anti-Spam Law Violates First Amendment
Posted Sep 15, 2008 8:38 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
The Virginia Supreme Court has reconsidered a 6-month-old ruling and struck down the state’s anti-spam law for violating the First Amendment.
The law is unconstitutionally overbroad because it bars anonymous transmission of political, religious and other speech protected by the First Amendment, the court ruled in its decision (PDF) issued on Friday.
The court said the law failed to limit its restrictions to fraudulent or commercial e-mail or to unprotected speech such as defamation or obscenity, the Washington Post reports. Justice G. Steven Agee wrote the opinion (PDF) for the unanimous court. He participated in the case before his confirmation to the Richmond, Va.-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Agee noted that the Federalist Papers, written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, had been published under the name Publius. “Were the Federalist Papers just being published today via e-mail, that transmission by 'Publius' would violate the statute" because it bars anonymous transmissions, he wrote.
The court’s prior opinion upheld the law by a 4-3 margin, the Post story says. The new ruling reversed the conviction of accused spammer Jeremy Jaynes, who sent more than 10,000 e-mails in a 24-hour period on three different occasions. He was selling products to help pick stock, erase Internet search history and obtain refunds from FedEx.
Virginia Attorney General Robert McDonnell said he would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, the Post story says. The law was one of the first in the nation to target spammers; many later laws restricted only commercial e-mails.