Virginia appeals court upholds first US felony spam conviction

Virginia appeals court upholds first US felony spam conviction

[JURIST] The Court of Appeals of Virginia [court website], the state's second-highest court, upheld the nation's first felony conviction for computer spamming on Tuesday, ruling that Virginia's anti-spamming statute [text] does not violate the First Amendment or the so-called Dormant Commerce Clause, and is not unconstitutionally vague. On appeal, admitted spammer Jeremy Jaynes [Wikipedia profile] argued that the Virginia statute violates the US Constitution [text] because the First Amendment protects anonymous free speech, and that the Dormant Commerce Clause [academic backgrounder] extends to the federal government exclusive jurisdiction over electronic transactions that took place, in part, outside of Virginia.

In its ruling [PDF text], the court wrote:

The statute criminalizes the intentional falsification of a sender's identity so as to gain access to a service provider's network. Thus, the statute does not prevent anonymous speech, as appellant argues, but prohibits trespassing on private computer networks through intentional misrepresentation, an activity that merits no First Amendment protection.

As to the Dormant Commerce Clause question, the court wrote:

That anti-spam laws, in general, produce local benefits is unquestionable…[and] Congress, in enacting CAN-SPAM, expressly accorded the States the right to regulate false and misleading e-mail transmissions…any burden to interstate commerce is incidental and clearly not excessive.

Jaynes was sentenced to nine years [JURIST report] for the offense last year, though the sentence was stayed pending appeal, and no hearing has yet been set to decide if Jaynes will begin serving time. AP has more.