March 30th, 2009
11:31 AM ET
13 years ago

High court refuses to consider state anti-spam law

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="The high court without comment Monday rejected Virginia's appeal to keep its Computer Crimes Act in place."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Supreme Court has passed up a chance to examine how far states can go to restrict unsolicited e-mails, part of efforts to block "spammers" from bombarding computer users.

The high court without comment Monday rejected Virginia's appeal to keep its Computer Crimes Act in place. It was one of the toughest laws of its kind in the nation, the only one to ban noncommercial - as well as commercial - spam e-mail to consumers in that state.

The justices' refusal to intervene also means the conviction of prolific commercial spammer Jeremy Jaynes will not be reinstated.

His 2004 felony conviction was the first in the United States of someone on trial for sending bulk unsolicited electronic messages.

A Virginia jury found Jaynes used several computers and servers to send as many as 24,000 "spam" e-mails in one day to America Online (AOL) subscribers. He used false "header" info and sender domain names, according to court records. A search of his Raleigh, North Carolina, home found CDs with more than 176 million e-mail addresses and 1.3 billion e-mail user names, some of them stolen by a former AOL employee.

He was sentenced to nine years in prison, but the state high court eventually reversed the conviction. The state justices said the law was overbroad because some bulk e-mails might contain political, religious, or other speech that has traditionally been given higher First Amendment protection than typical "commercial speech."

Such political speech might be a request for support from a candidate for elected office, while commercial speech might be a solicitation for a medical product, like a hair regrowth tonic.

The U.S. Supreme Court was asked to weigh whether such anti-spam laws

Despite the ruling, Jaynes remains behind bars because of a federal

The anti-spam case is Virginia v. Jaynes (08-765).

Filed under: Supreme Court
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Mississippi Mike

    Virginia is becoming the political California of the East Coast. That's not a good thing.

    March 30, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  2. Who cares really?

    Like seriously, who cares? The government is set to infringe upon your civil liberties anyway....we all know the wrath is coming. Be ready to live a live of poverty and indentation as servants to carry out the government's will.

    March 30, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  3. gail

    Our supreme court back to work!

    March 30, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  4. Todd

    Mississippi Mike March 30th, 2009 11:42 am ET

    Virginia is becoming the political California of the East Coast. That's not a good thing.
    No, America is changing and the south is really stuck in the past!

    March 30, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  5. Franky

    Somebody better do something...I don't want no Jehovah's witnesses up in my computer, LOL!!

    March 30, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  6. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    In the Commonwealth of Virginia, you can go to jail for not looking both ways before crossing the street.

    March 30, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  7. barking dog from Delaware

    Its all about the money honey.

    March 30, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  8. Mary - Independent

    There is no reason that American have to live like rats! There is no reason to put up with the spam, the telemarketers and all the other pests who annoy people. And, why go from bad to worse? I

    March 30, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  9. Ravi

    The Commonwealth of Virginia did the right thing by cracking down on spammers. It's a tragedy that the law wasn't upheld.

    March 30, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  10. Vince

    End the SPAM! It is ridiculous. End the phishing too- how can that possibly be legal? Take out the telemarketers too while your at it. At least all of that doesn't waste paper like junk mail.
    We need some vigilante-ism.

    March 30, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  11. Don

    And we are paying these clowns? Give me a break please. Better yet how would they like there computers loaded with spam everytime they go online? How about the telemarketers calling even after you are on the do-not-call list? What are these judges thinking?

    March 30, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  12. Mari the Independent

    @ Mississipi Mike.......... seriously, you need to start reading and listening to others, not just the far-right-nuts!

    You see, Mike, the majority of Americans love what California stands for! The problem is with the backwards South, that would like America to return to the days of the Jim Crow laws and segregation!

    Thank GOD Almighty that America does not want to go back to the vile past!

    March 30, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  13. Sick of Dirty Obama

    You might as well spam or express yourself how you want now...before Obama censors and legislates our freedoms away

    March 30, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |