SW Legal studies in Business

State Commercial E-Mail Regulation Held Constitutional
Description The Washington state high court upheld the constitutionality of the state's commercial e-mail statute that prohibits the use of false or misleading information lines and transmission paths in the distribution of e-mails in or out of the state.
Topic Cyberlaw
Key Words Interstate Commerce; Public Interest; Commercial E-Mail
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Heckel, an Oregon resident, sent spam on the Internet. One was for a book he was selling, "How to Profit from the Internet." He sent up to 1 million messages a week about the book. The attorney general of Washington informed Heckel that he appeared to be violating the state's commercial electronic mail act, but the spam continued. It contained misleading subject lines, false or unusable return e-mail addresses, and false or misleading transmission paths. The state sued Heckel and sought an injunction against such practices by him. The trial court dismissed the suit, holding that the state statute violated the Commerce Clause of the Constitution by restricting interstate commerce. The state appealed.
Decision Reversed. When a statute regulates evenhandedly to effect a legitimate local public interest, and its effects on interstate commerce are only incidental, it will be upheld unless the burden imposed on such commerce is clearly excessive in relation to the putative local benefits. The commercial e-mail act, which prohibits misrepresentations in the subject line or transmission path of any commercial e-mail message sent from or to a computer in Washington state does not burden interstate commerce unconstitutionally and is not discriminatory against commercial interests outside of the state.
Citation State v. Heckel, 24 P.3d 404 (Sup. Ct., Wash., 2001)

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