Jeremy Jaynes has the dubious honor of being the first American to go to jail under anti-spam legislation. The Virginia Court of Appeals has upheld his conviction after a lower court previously sentenced him to nine years in prison. All parties knew about the facts: Jaynes had sent lots and lots of spam. He had a stolen database of 84 million AOL customers, and the unlucky one who went into it was also ripped off. Remarkably, only sending spam with a falsified sender to recipients in Virginia was punished, the Court confirmed. According to the professional judges, it was irrelevant that the e-mails did not come from Virginia, as the defence.
A more significant objection from Jaynes’s lawyers concerned the right to free speech. The court fired this argument: “The law prohibits the intrusion of computers under false pretenses, and that act does not deserve any protection under the First Amendment.” Yet Jaynes had the backing of a few strong parties in this regard: both the renowned conservative Rutherford Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union, Virginia branch, submitted credentials arguing that the anti-spam legislation was too broad and vague. . Both organizations fear that this verdict will make it easier to convict innocents. “If someone sends an anonymous email to someone else and that email happens to come through a server in Virginia, the sender is now punishable,” complained a lawyer for Jaynes. “In fact, if I buy a mailing list, change the shipping address because I don’t want to be harassed, and send everyone a edifying word on Easter morning, the state of Virginia can sue me!” The man apparently completely missed the fact that not only the recipients of spam can be experienced as a nuisance.