Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Spam Government The Courts United States News

Supreme Court Lets Virginia Anti-Spam Law Die 77

Posted by kdawson
from the escaping-from-the-can dept.
SpuriousLogic sends in a CNN report that begins "The Supreme Court has passed up a chance to examine how far states can go to restrict unsolicited e-mails in 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." Jaynes remains behind bars because of a federal securities fraud conviction unrelated to the matter of spamming.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Supreme Court Lets Virginia Anti-Spam Law Die

Comments Filter:
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @05:27AM (#27399503)

    The SCOTUS does not take every case that crosses its path. These days, unless there is an important Constitutional interpretation at stake, the Court will typically pass on the case.

    Since there really isn't much new in this case (the FA already forbids restriction on TFOS), it's hardly surprising that the SCROTUS decided to let precedent do its job.

    No one likes spammers, but this law was clearly in violation of the civil rights of everyone it touched.

    • Regardless, one wonders why it is so hard to think up a law that effectively blocks spam (with the intent to deceive people into either buying shit, or paying for stuff that isn't actually being sold, etc.) while not also apparently blocking the right for political candidates/parties to "inform" you of the fact that they're running for some sort of office (or similar).
      Not that I'd be any more interested in hearing what said politician or party wants to tell me any more than I'm interested in viagra ads, bu

      • by bloodninja (1291306) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @06:58AM (#27399929)

        Israel handled it by making mails advertising a paid service without prior communication illegal. As politicians are not advertising a service that the email receiver directly pays for, it is legal. This past election, I actually abstained from voting because the party that I intended to vote for sent me spam.

        • by Shakrai (717556)

          This past election, I actually abstained from voting because the party that I intended to vote for sent me spam.

          That's funny, I withdrew my support from the Working Families Party [workingfamiliesparty.org] because they cold-called me in Spanish. In the 607 area code [wikipedia.org]. Not exactly an area known for having tons of non-English speakers.

          Mind you, I was drifting out of their political orbit anyway, but you morons can't even figure your computer dialer appropriately for the areas that it's calling? That's just annoying.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Sounds like you're nitpicking. They made a mistake - we all do that sometimes. Just inform the caller of the mistake and be done with it, without making it into a big issue. (i.e. Stop making a mountain out of a molehill.)

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by Em Emalb (452530)

              That's not picking nits, IMO.

              I get unsolicited Mexican spam several times a week. I speak just enough to know that it's a scam service offering to extend my car's warranty.

              I also notice that when I go to the store, almost every single label has both English and Mexican* on it even though as of now the Hispanic population is only about 15% of the over-all US population. (source: http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/population/011910.html [census.gov] )

              I wouldn't move to Italy and expect them to have

              • by Hozza (1073224) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @07:51AM (#27400179)

                I wouldn't move to Italy and expect them to have every label in English, (hell, maybe they do, but I doubt it)

                Actually, its extremely common to find packaging with multiple languages in Europe. Many will be bilingual and some are even quadlingual.

                The business logic is nothing to do with %'s of populations, its all about the flexibility of being able to ship the product to different countries, depending on where there's demand this week.

                • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                  by MatthewCCNA (1405885)
                  Canadian packages are required to be in both French and English, which is funny because less people in Ontario speak French as a first language than Mandarin. I wish it was left up the the business to decide which which languages to include.
              • by Speare (84249)

                In many parts of the US, you find fewer Mexicans but more Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and other latino populations. The language is Spanish, but there are dialects. Just as Louisiana French and Quebecois French and Parisian French are dialects.

                The fact that we see two and three languages on products owes at least as much to NAFTA as to who buys what. Making one package design that serves a whole continent saves the company some money.

              • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

                >>>I get unsolicited Mexican spam several times a week

                We were discussing a phone call from a politician. Your example, although entertaining, is non-relevant to phonecalls from political parties. In that case, a volunteer made a bad assumption that the homeowner was Spanish. The simple solution would have been to say, "Sorry I only speak English," to the political volunteer rather than throw a temper tantrum about it, and refuse to vote for said party. (Again: Don't make a mountain out of a mol

                • by Em Emalb (452530)

                  Oh I'm sorry, Officer ThreadKeeper. I'll make sure to not respond with my off-topic comments to your off-topic thread.

              • by stinerman (812158)

                I'm not worried about Mexicans coming to the US and not learning English. In a lot of communities they can get by without knowing English. I think learning English would definitely behoove them, but by no means should it be required.

                • by Em Emalb (452530)

                  I'm not saying it should be required, just that I don't understand the complete lack of desire to learn the language spoken by the great majority of people in the country you live in.

                  I understand that "keeping your heritage and cultural roots" alive is a very good thing, but I also think that there should be at least a few concessions made, in many cases, learning the local language should be one of them.

                  The strange thing to me, though, is that by and large, hispanic people work their asses off in order to

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by fugue (4373)

                *I call it Mexican because it isn't Spanish. "Spain" Spanish and Mexican "Spanish" are not the same, and while the root structure is the same, the slang and many of the verbs are not.

                I'm with you so far... and I even agree with your post. But:

                I also notice that when I go to the store, almost every single label has both English and Mexican*

                If you won't dignify the Mexican language with the name "Spanish", how can you call what USA-blokes speak "English?

                That's not picking nits, IMO.

                But I am :)

              • ...almost every single label has both English and Mexican...

                I call it Mexican because it isn't Spanish. "Spain" Spanish and Mexican "Spanish" are not the same, and while the root structure is the same, the slang and many of the verbs are not.

                If that was the real reason, then how come you don't call the language you write in "American"?

            • by Shakrai (717556)

              Well, like I said, I was drifting out of their political orbit anyway. And there wasn't a caller to inform -- it was a recording. Which brings me back to the bit about properly configuring your computer dialer....

              • Yeah well, your complaint reminds me of my grumpy old grandpa. He complains about the most trivial shit. Whats the point of being alive if you're always bitching and a miserable old bastard?

        • by ubrgeek (679399) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @07:46AM (#27400143)
          > politicians are not advertising a service that the email receiver directly pays for

          Tell that to Blagojevich ... ;)
        • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @09:01AM (#27400671) Homepage Journal

          Israel handled it by making mails advertising a paid service without prior communication illegal.

          Sensible.

          That puts me in mind of the fact that even though Israel is the darling of so-called "conservatives" in the US, it is also every bit as "socialist" as any country in Western or Central Europe. You never hear the same kind of scorn and derision that you hear leveled against countries like Sweden, Denmark or (gasp) France.

          It's a shame that hubris prevents the US from trying to learn from any other nation in the world.

        • This past election, I actually abstained from voting because the party that I intended to vote for sent me spam.

          So... you subjugated your right to vote because of the actions of another person? Odd. It seems to me the exchange was unbalanced: your politician lost 1 vote, whereas you lost your civil right.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        one wonders why it is so hard to think up a law that effectively blocks spam

        I've got this one.

        It's because in this system, if there's any possibility that an activity, no matter how repulsive and destructive, could someday be used to put a nickel in the pocket of big corporations, that activity will never become illegal without sufficient safeguards in place to protect the God-given right of the Lords of Profit to benefit.

        This is why we still have copyright laws. You didn't think it was to protect creative

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @08:51AM (#27400577) Homepage Journal

      it's hardly surprising that the SCROTUS decided to let precedent do its job.

      Well, that's what we elected the precedent to do.

    • These days, unless there is an important Constitutional interpretation at stake, the Court will typically pass on the case.

      Not true. Let's just look at the opinions issued today [scotusblog.com].

      • Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs [scotuswiki.com], Issue: Whether a 1993 congressional resolution requires Hawaii to reach a political settlement with native Hawaiians before transferring some 1.2 million acres of state land.
      • Rivera v. Illinois [scotuswiki.com], Issue: Whether the erroneous denial of a criminal defendantâ(TM)s preemptory challenge that res
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @05:33AM (#27399537)

    I believe in freedom. As an American and a citizen of America, a land that was birthed in the patriotic defense of freedom, freedom is important to me and my wonderful family and our church and community. That is why I believe, like millions of other Americans, and the great majority of Italians, in Freedom. But when a malicious band of radical Italians, who curse our freedom and want their countrymen to not have the freedoms that America gave them, use the blessings and liberties of our freedoms to attack Freedom, I say this means war. If these Italo-extremists attack with spams on our computer networks and internet, then I will stand shoulder to shoulder with patriotic defenders of our homeland and our freedom-loving Italian allies until the false friends of the Italian people, the freedom-haters are defeated. Sometimes we will have to sacrifice some temporary freedoms in the defense of the greater freedom and the responsibility of freedom and the responsibility to responsibly exercise that freedom, that comes with being a free American (as opposed to a Mexican or something of that sort). GOD bless you all and good morning. We will prevail.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      One is surprised that the few "good" Italians don't stand up against the outrages of these extremists.

      I understand there are Italian "camps" all over the US, training their young people to hate our freedom.

      I saw a few of these types over on Taylor Street the other day in front of Johnny's Italian Beef. Dressed in their native Members Only jackets with their shiny, greasy headwear.

      One asked me "What the fuck you lookin' at, jagoff?"

      Clearly, they hate freedom.

    • I think you are talking about Sicirians?

  • by Jurily (900488) <jurily.gmail@com> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @05:54AM (#27399611)

    Your post advocates a...

    • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @08:12AM (#27400283) Journal

      Your post advocates a...

      Your post advocates a

      ( ) technical ( ) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante (X) form-based

      approach to fighting spam. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal law was passed.)

      ( ) Spammers can easily use it to harvest email addresses
      ( ) Mailing lists and other legitimate email uses would be affected
      ( ) No one will be able to find the guy or collect the money
      ( ) It is defenseless against brute force attacks
      ( ) It will stop spam for two weeks and then we'll be stuck with it
      ( ) Users of email will not put up with it
      ( ) Microsoft will not put up with it
      ( ) The police will not put up with it
      ( ) Requires too much cooperation from spammers
      ( ) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
      ( ) Many email users cannot afford to lose business or alienate potential employers
      ( ) Spammers don't care about invalid addresses in their lists
      ( ) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business
      (X) The meme is tired and worn out and I'm just as likely to get a -1 troll as a +5 funny.

      Specifically, your plan fails to account for

      ( ) Laws expressly prohibiting it
      ( ) Lack of centrally controlling authority for email
      ( ) Open relays in foreign countries
      ( ) Ease of searching tiny alphanumeric address space of all email addresses
      (X) Asshats
      ( ) Jurisdictional problems
      ( ) Unpopularity of weird new taxes
      ( ) Public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
      ( ) Huge existing software investment in SMTP
      ( ) Susceptibility of protocols other than SMTP to attack
      ( ) Willingness of users to install OS patches received by email
      ( ) Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes
      ( ) Eternal arms race involved in all filtering approaches
      ( ) Extreme profitability of spam
      ( ) Joe jobs and/or identity theft
      ( ) Technically illiterate politicians
      ( ) Extreme stupidity on the part of people who do business with spammers
      ( ) Dishonesty on the part of spammers themselves
      ( ) Bandwidth costs that are unaffected by client filtering
      ( ) Outlook

      and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

      (X) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever been shown practical
      ( ) Any scheme based on opt-out is unacceptable
      ( ) SMTP headers should not be the subject of legislation
      ( ) Blacklists suck
      ( ) Whitelists suck
      ( ) We should be able to talk about Viagra without being censored
      ( ) Countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or credit card fraud
      ( ) Countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public networks
      ( ) Countermeasures must work if phased in gradually
      ( ) Sending email should be free
      ( ) Why should we have to trust you and your servers?
      ( ) Incompatibility with open source or open source licenses
      ( ) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
      ( ) Temporary/one-time email addresses are cumbersome
      ( ) I don't want the government reading my email
      ( ) Killing them that way is not slow and painful enough

      Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

      (X) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
      ( ) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it.
      ( ) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and burn your house down!

    • The problem with the form is that it's based on the very USA/UK way of thinking that something must either be 100% of the solution or is useless with no middle ground possible. Whereas real life(TM) tends to be more granular in nature.

      • by Jurily (900488)

        The problem with the form is that it's based on the very USA/UK way of thinking that something must either be 100% of the solution or is useless with no middle ground possible.

        Don't blame the form. Spam is way too much adaptible. They can operate from hijacked computers, you know.

        The form just points that out. If you come up with a solution that passes the form test, you'll be rich.

        Also, consider the fact that partial solutions have already been applied, and only worked until they noticed.

      • I originally wrote that "technical/legislative/market-based/vigilante" form back in 2004. I'm too lazy to dig up the link but it was basically a spoof of one that Hardy used for Fermat's Last Theorem.

        I agree with you that real life will involve a continuous struggle with spam, but the same can't be said for most of the convenient little solutions people come up with for it, and those are what the form is meant to dispense with. The whole point of it was to demonstrate the conspicuous, continued absence of a

  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @06:03AM (#27399635)

    "Sir, the Supreme Court rejected our appeal to keep the antispam law."

    "Did they state a reason for the rejection?"

    "Yes, we apparently need a much larger voting base. They offered to provide us with the necessary means to enlarge our voting base in weeks."

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @07:27AM (#27400039) Journal

    Sorry folks I know most here just don't want to hear this, but it's the only solution that will eventually work: require the sender to pay a very small amount per e-mail sent. For instance, 1 cent of a $ or EUR per e-mail, plus 1 cent per every MB of e-mail size. I would be more than happy to pay this modest sum.

    This could (and should) be implemented on a recepient-level: there should be e-mail service provider companies that will require this payment for e-mails sent to their customers. This way, no change to any protocol or standard is required for this to work. Also, withing companies ("intranets"), this fee would be waived, so that mass mailings would be still possible for company announcements etc.

    While 1 cent/email is completely immaterial for any normal user out there, it will deter the prolific spammer (including the Nigerian ones).

    • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @07:46AM (#27400145)

      Go look up http://craphound.com/spamsolutions.txt [craphound.com]. Fill it in for yourself, please, with particular attention to the existence of botnets (which steal email services from zombied machines worldwide), non-profit spam (which will get away with it free as they do under the CAN-SPAM act), and the difficulties of micropayments (handling many thousands of small transactions is extremely expensive when you start handling real money).

      In other words, it will hurt legitimate email far, far, far more than spam, which will simply steal the service from others. Or do you somehow think that you personally will magically profit from this one?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by esme (17526)

        We've all seen that "fixing the spam problem is impossible" form letter. In fact, I think I've even posted it here on slashdot and probably on usenet back in the day.

        But I think parent is basically correct: the only practical way to end spam is to make it unprofitable. Ending the rewards for spamming is truly impossible. Criminalizing it is possible, but ineffective. Filtering hides the problem but doesn't fix it. Technical solutions will at best result in an arms race, because there is so much money a

        • by TimTucker (982832)

          But I think parent is basically correct: the only practical way to end spam is to make it unprofitable. Having every email cost a cent (given to the recipient) will go a long way.

          So all I need to do to get rich is to have a botnet of infected pcs start sending me massive amounts of spam? Where do I sign up?

    • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @07:50AM (#27400171) Homepage

      Incredible! You've solved spam.

      Where thousands of security experts have failed, you alone have come up with the magic bullet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by blind biker (1066130)

        Incredible! You've solved spam.

        Where thousands of security experts have failed, you alone have come up with the magic bullet.

        Maybe that's the advantage of the idea: it came from someone who doesn't know that "it can't be done". It's called naive creativity.

    • by Vectronic (1221470) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @08:01AM (#27400221)

      I can't tell... are you joking or not?

      What about people on mailing lists? Is your Slashdot account set to e-mail you when someone replies to a comment you made? How many Slashdotters are there? 1.5 million now or something? You expect them to dish out like $15,000 (if everyone had it enabled), and that's only per-reply, per-comment... would end up being in the hundreds of thousands a day...

      But I suppose now you'd want to create a registry or something, white and blacklists, that's ok, I'm sure all these service providers would just love to do that for every damn company, organization and website, around the world, they live for that shit.

      Who gets to decide who's on which list? Obviously, this needs federal regulation now, now this costs them money, that's ok... they can just raise the cost... lets say 10 cents, that seems fair... but wait, they still want more money, but they can't raise the initial price... I know, they could add an e-mail tax onto internet accounts... ...

      • Ok, well to be fare, there is like an average of 150 comments per-story, and like 30 stories a day or something, so it's only about $45...

        But Slashdot isn't exactly huge, there are larger things like social networking that have tens of millions of active people a day, and numerous notifications. It could be argued that they should conglomerate their messages, but a lot of people don't want that, that's why stuff like Twitter, and texting is so popular.

        Naturally the business will want to create a compensatio

      • by gleffler (540281)

        You could work around this by generating some sort of really long hash of a secret cookie and the sending domain name, then providing that hash to the sending website. When sending mail, the sender could send it to you at youraddress+hash@yourisp.com -- Your ISP would then know that you'd granted that site permission to mail you for free and wouldn't charge them.

        Ideally, you'd be able to go to a page on your ISP's site and revoke these revocations for free mail at some point if the site started abusing the

        • by Dhalka226 (559740)

          All of that would depend on people not being stupid. We still live in a world where somebody who specifically signed up for a newsletter/mailing list/what have you from a legitimate company but decided they no longer want it hit the "Mark as spam" button instead of using the unsubscribe link. Not to mention it being ripe for abuse. Sign up for something from a company you don't like, give them cost-free email, revoke privilege for "abuse."

          It's also dependent on there being a universal system in use for

      • No, I am not joking. I did not exclude the existence of normal e-mail accounts. You can receive e-mails from mailing lists and such, on your normal e-mail account. You'll also get some spam. But you can have an e-mail account that requires the 1c/email payment, and that one will not be used for mailing lists, obviously.

    • This works right up until someone figures out how to send them for free. And then all I've got is a smaller bank account and an inbox with the same amount of spam.
    • Er, do you even know how email works? With the Post Office there is a central authority through whom all mail moves. Charging delivery fees is easy because that central authority can simply refuse to deliver if the fee is not paid. Email does not work this way.

      If I send you an email, my server contacts your server directly, yes it passes over the ISP's wires, and they may be able to figure out that it's an email, but this is far from certain. At best, they could monitor and charge for all traffic on p
  • by idiotnot (302133) <sean@757.org> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @07:30AM (#27400055) Homepage Journal

    ...the Virginia General Assembly didn't take this up during its session this year (runs Jan through early March-ish).

    There wasn't anything preventing them from amending the law so it complied with the court ruling. They didn't do that.

    Maybe they were waiting for the appeals to be fleshed out. Or maybe it was more important to ban smoking in restaurants to please Governor Timmah. And put in prayer in schools. And strengthen the drunk driving laws. And take up the state song issue again, and....

    Not sure.

    It might be onn tap for next year. But I'm not so hopeful. The Virginia politicians, with the exception of Rick Boucher (who is starting to waver in his party's mantra of hopeychange), who spearheaded smart Internet laws are gone.

    So, with that, hope those of you who voted for the new crew like spam, and taxes on every single thing you purchase on the net.

    • There's so much about what you wrote that is simply wrong. Let's run down the list.

      1. Rick Boucher isn't a member of the Virginia General Assembly, he's a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

      2. There was never a heyday of Virginia politicians who spearheaded smart internet laws. You can tell because, if there had been, then we'd have smart internet laws. The closest that we ever got was Gov. Jim Gilmore, who created the Secretary of Technology cabinet position and created those asinine "@" internet

      • by idiotnot (302133)

        1. Rick Boucher isn't a member of the Virginia General Assembly, he's a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

        Re-read the parent. I didn't limit my statement to the GA, now did I?

        2. There was never a heyday of Virginia politicians who spearheaded smart internet laws. You can tell because, if there had been, then we'd have smart internet laws. The closest that we ever got was Gov. Jim Gilmore, who created the Secretary of Technology cabinet position and created those asinine "@" internet license plate

  • The image that accompanies the article is, if I am not mistaken, from the Netscape mail client from, oh, 1998.

    Looks like CNN could stand to update their image database.
  • ..how much spam does everyone actually see?

    I use gmail and I get very little spam that actually shows up in my inbox. I would say ~maybe~ 1 message a month at the absolute most. I also have a yahoo email that I use as a throw away account when I have to give an email. Even that one isn't tooo bad. Nothing ever shows up on my corporate email, but I know that one is heavily filtered.

    I'm not saying spam isn't a problem on mail servers, but how much does it effect the average Joe?

    • by Phroggy (441) <[moc.yggorhp] [ta] [3todhsals]> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @10:55AM (#27402177) Homepage

      That's exactly why the politicians don't take it seriously - the average Joe doesn't realize how vast (and expensive) a problem it is.

      For awhile, my tiny little home server, only used by me and a few friends and family members, with just one domain name, was rejecting approximately one spam attempt every 45 seconds, on average. I don't know what the recent numbers are - after the McColo shutdown, there was a huge drop, and I haven't bothered to figure out the statistics recently.

      But that's once every 45 seconds, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. On a tiny little home server. Now imagine how much money it costs Google to deal with spam on GMail....

    • by Spatial (1235392)
      I get absolutely none on my Gmail account.

      On my Hotmail account, I get a couple of spams per month. Typically they're from friends of mine who sign up for crap like Myspace, automatically spamming me with invites.
  • by Benanov (583592)

    Is this part of the UCTIA law or separate? They almost got my hopes up with this one.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    SCOTUS did not grant certiorari (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Certiorari) Is one of evidence. The court may very well feel that this law should be upheld, but that the current case that is brought for cert involves an unconstitutional behaviour, a non-issue, or may lead to an undesirable counter-opinion. (http://books.google.com/books?id=eEoyK7ZCXjsC&pg=PA208&lpg=PA208&dq=why+the+supreme+court+motivation&source=bl&ots=MP2Trrpv9c&sig=B984XiR1TuBSlIliFnBy0e0n_zs&hl=en&ei=7C3SSf

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982

Working...