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US Supremes flatline Virginia's hardline anti-spam law

AOL junk mailer ignored

A tough anti-spam law passed by the state of Virginia has officially been declared dead following the refusal by the US Supreme Court to reinstate a felony conviction prosecuted under the statute.

The high court on Monday declined to review an appeal challenging a lower-court ruling that declared the anti-spam law unconstitutional because it barred all anonymous, unsolicited mass emails, including those with political, religious, or other protected content. The September decision by Virginia's Supreme Court, threw out the nine-year sentence of notorious spammer Jeremy Jaynes, who was convicted under the state statute.

The law made it a misdemeanor to use fake IP addresses or headers to send unsolicited bulk email. The offense became a felony if more than 10,000 addresses received the email in a 24-hour period. In 2004, Jaynes's case resulted in the nation's first criminal conviction for spam. Jaynes remains in federal prison serving a 42-month sentence in an unrelated case.

Specifically, North Carolina-based Jaynes was convicted of three counts of junk email offenses for spamming tens of thousands of AOL addresses he got from a stolen database. He was once rated as the eighth worst spammer in the world by the anti-spam collective Spamhaus. Because his spam assault flooded AOL servers, Jaynes was prosecuted in Virginia, where the internet provider is headquartered.

Virginia Attorney General Bill Mims said he was disappointed by the US Supreme Court's refusal to hear his appeal "since the chance of the statute actually being applied in an unconstitutional manner is exceptionally slim," The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. He has vowed to rewrite the law to address constitutional concerns. Additional coverage from The Washington Post is here. ®

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