The Virginia Supreme Court recently ruled that Virginia’s anti-spam law violates the free speech protections in the First Amendment to the US Constitution, and overturned the 2004 conviction of spammer Jeremy Jaynes. Jaynes, who had sent over 10,000 unsolicited e-mails in a 24-hour period on three occasions, was convicted of three counts of violating Virginia’s anti-spam law and was sentenced to nine years in prison.

In finding that the statute was unconstitutionally overbroad, the court observed that the Virginia law outlawed all forms of speech, not merely that of a commercial nature. By also banning anonymous transmission of political and religious speech, the court ruled that the law encroached upon the First Amendment. The court noted that, by comparison, the federal CAN-SPAM Act was limited to unsolicited commercial bulk e-mail.

McCarthy Tétrault Notes:

Canada is reportedly the only G8 country without anti-spam legislation. During the recent election campaign, Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged to introduce anti-spam legislation if his Conservative Party were re-elected. Now that the Conservatives have been returned to power, it will be interesting to see if they act on Harper’s promise and, if so, what form the legislation will take.