SW Legal studies in Business

State May Regulate Spam
Description California appeals court upheld the constitutionality of a California statute that regulates the structure and content of unsolicited commercial e-mails sent within the state. The statute protects commerce by eliminating deceit and is not an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce.
Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words Interstate Commerce; Regulation; Spam
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Section 17538.4 of the California Business and Professions Code regulates "unsolicited e-mail documents" (spam). Ferguson sued several California businesses that sent him unsolicited e-mail advertisements that did not comply with the Code requirements. In violation of the law, the spam did not state that it was an advertisement, it did not give a way to ask to be removed from further mailings, and the return address masked the identity of the sender. The trial court held that the regulation was unconstitutional because it burdened interstate commerce. Ferguson appealed.
Decision

Reversed. The internet is part of interstate commerce but does not mean that the states cannot engage in any restrictions on its use. The California regulations do not unconstitutionally burden interstate commerce. The law applies to spam sent to California residents by equipment located in California. It serves the legitimate purpose of protecting the state's citizens from the economic damage caused by deceptive unsolicited commercial e-mail. By requiring truthfulness, it helps commerce by eliminating fraud and deception.

Citation Ferguson v. Friendfinders, Inc., 2002 WL 4701 (Ct. App., Calif., 2002)

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