NYT reports that Spam Sent by Fraud Is Made a Felony Under Virginia Law. Interesting. I have no idea how this could possibly be enforceable unless both the sender and recipient resided in Virginia and am clueless as to how it would be technically feasible even then. Indeed, since the Internet is the epitome of interstate commerce, I’m not sure how the several States derive the power to regulate this anyway. Aside from that, a great idea.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Science & Technology
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. jen says:

    I posted about this last night, saying I hope they throw the book at them when they’re caught. But catching them is the key now. Realistically, there’s no way this law will ever be enforced. It’s as you said, the spammer would have to be in Virginia as would the spammee. It’s nice to know the law exists, but I doubt we’ll see that many spammers caught and jailed.

  2. PoliBlogger says:

    All this would do, assuming it could be enforced at all (and I agree with James on that point) is drive spamming abroad.

  3. joy says:

    You guys missed the second sentence in the article, the reason why VA is trying to enact such a law is because some of the big ISPs such as, say, AOL are located in VA.

    Thusly, if spam goes to an AOL customer, guess what, it has to pass through computers located in VA. The supporters of this law say that since the ISP is located in VA, then that gives VA prosecutors jurisdiction.

  4. James Joyner says:


    Interesting. Indeed, I pass right by AOL HQ on my way to work in the morning. 🙂

    I don’t think this will fly, but I don’t have the legal expertise to know for sure. For that matter, I don’t know if enough precedent exists that anyone knows for sure. I’m not sure how VA authorities could arrest someone who committed a crime without setting foot in VA, though. Given that people don’t like spammers, it’s conceivable that other states would extradite, but I’m dubious of the legality of that.

  5. joy says:

    Well, I’d expect it to fly if anything because if you look at the headers of an email message, you can tell basically where the email has been via the IP addresses that are recorded in the headers. This is how you track down spammers.

    If I recall correctly, I believe that ISPs are regulated by the state (or other governing body) that they are physically located. That’s why there are some ISPs go offshore to escape certain laws. There is in fact an ISP called Sealand that is based in a micronation just outside of Britain. The reason for the location? Because the ISP was looking for a friendly nation without restrictive laws.

    Also, take a minute and think about the problems that Yahoo (France) and Google (China) have had with certain governments wanting to ban material found on both of those sites. Even though those two sites were not necessarily located in the nations in question, those two sites still complied with the eventual judgements against them.