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1st Amendment Doesn't Cover Spam?

Richmond (VA) - The highest court in the state of Virginia is the first major judicial power in the country to rule on the debate of freedom of speech vs. spam, and the spammers lost.

Raleigh resident Jeremy Jaynes was convicted of violating Virginia’s 2003 Anti-Spam Act for sending out more than 50,000 e-mails in under three days. He was sentenced to nine years in prison, but appealed under the First Amendment.

The case was just settled in the Virginia Supreme Court, and with a close 4-3 vote among justices, the conviction was upheld. The majority justices said bulk e-mail messages are not covered by citizens’ right to "freedom of speech".

According to claims made in Jaynes’s case, he received over $2 million during 2003 from his spamming scam. This was the first felony case for spamming in the United States. Jaynes was considered the eighth most prolific spammer when he was arrested.

Jaynes’s attorney said the ruling could lead to problems in the future with cases not involving dangerous spam messages. "As three justices pointed out in dissent, the majority’s decision will have far reaching consequences. The statute criminalizes sending bulk anonymous e-mail, even for the purpose of petitioning the government or promoting religion," he said in an AP story.