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This time I am posting the story for the date it has on it. Yahoo News seems to be having trouble with dates from the future. I posted this at 1:10 p.m. MST Wednesday, March 15. _____________

Thursday, March 16 3:37 AM SGT

Court Strikes Down Wash State's Anti-Spamming Law - Update RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIFORNIA, U.S.A., 2000 MAR 15 (NB) -- By Sherman Fridman, Newsbytes. A County Superior Court judge dealt a blow to Washington State consumers, as well as to the state's tough, anti- spamming law, when he ruled that regulation of e-mail by the state was unconstitutional.

The Washington state law provides for the prosecution of senders of commercial e-mail that use false return addresses, misleading information in the subject line, or a disguised transmission path. But Judge Palmer Robinson ruled that this state law violated the commerce clause of the United States Constitution which provides, in essence, that no state shall make any law which impedes the transaction of interstate commerce.

The original case that prompted the court's ruling was filed by the Washington state attorney general's office against Jason Heckel, who was alleged to have sent up to 1 million e-mail messages a week for a product that he was selling over the Internet.

In addition to seeking an injunction against Heckel barring further sending of junk e-mail, the attorney general's office also sought to recover attorney's fees and a monetary penalty. Washington law provides that either actual damages or an amount between $500 and $1,000 per e-mail can be collected.

But Henkel's attorney, Dale Crandall, was successful in his argument that the commerce clause of the US Constitution gives Congress, and not the individual states, the primary authority to regulate interstate commerce.

The judge found that in order for businesses not to violate Washington law, they would have to first determine whether any of the intended e-mail recipients were located in the state of Washington. This, the judge felt, was "unduly restrictive and burdensome," hurting legitimate businesses more than it helped consumers.

Meanwhile, legal experts aren't convinced that the court's ruling was correct and point out that quite a few states have enacted consumer protection laws without finding them to be in violation of the commerce clause.

Brady Johnson, an attorney who filed one of the first suits against spammers under the new Washington law, is reported to believe that if the basis of Judge Robinson's ruling were upheld on appeal in a Federal court it could invalidate consumer-protection laws in every state, throwing the issue directly at the feet of legislators in the nation's capital.

Peter C. Ward, an attorney with a specialty in Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and unfair competition matters with the Nashville- based law firm of Baker Donelson, also sees the eventual involvement of the federal government in this area. In an interview with Newsbytes, Ward said that he believed the Washington state judge saw a very real constitutional issue, that goes to the heart of the commerce clause.

As Ward points out, if all 50 states enacted their own laws governing e-commerce there would be a patchwork quilt of different laws which would be applicable in different geographical areas; and, while these geographical areas are defined by boundaries, the laws would attempt to regulate a medium that is, essentially, without any boundaries.

Although the federal government has generally taken a hand-off position relative to the Internet, Ward feels that they will have to be one overseer, and that overseer will be the federal government.

It's not a question of whether regulation is needed, Ward says, but rather one of who should do the regulating.

No one from the attorney general's office in the State of Washington returned Newsbytes' request for comment.

However, lawyers point out that the County Supreme Court which handed down Tuesday's ruling is only a local, and not an appellate court, and as such, its ruling has no precedence over any other court or case.

-- Jen Bunker (, March 15, 2000


Oh Drat! I just noticed the SGT. Thought I had a good one there. Oh well, good story anyway!

-- Jen Bunker (, March 15, 2000.

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