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Virginia legislature unanimously passes anti-spam bill

David Hudson
First Amendment Center
02.25.99

The Virginia General Assembly unanimously approved legislation earlier this week that criminalizes the sending of forged unsolicited bulk e-mail and the selling of spam software that is "primarily designed ... for ... enabling the falsification of electronic mail."

The measure, which was first introduced in the House on Jan. 13, passed out of the House 100-0 on Feb. 4. Then the Senate approved it with a few amendments Feb. 19 by another unanimous vote of 40-0.

The House then approved the legislation with the Senate amendments by a vote of 90-0 on Feb. 23.

The measure, called the Virginia Computer Crimes Act, extends the crime of "computer trespass" to include forging e-mail "or other routing information in any manner in connection with the transmission of unsolicited bulk e-mail electronic mail through or into the computer network of an electronic mail service provider or its subscribers." Commercial spammers often send out spam messages that falsify their actual identity: hence the term "forging."

The measure also makes it unlawful to "sell, give or otherwise distribute or possess with the intent to sell, give or distribute" software designed to enable people to falsify bulk e-mail transmissions. The software must have "only (a) limited commercially significant purpose or use" other than enabling the falsification of unsolicited bulk e-mail.

John Mozena, co-founder of the anti-spam group the Coalition Against Unsolicited E-mail, applauded the Virginia legislature in a news release: "While this law does not address the problem of non-forged junk e-mail, it's a tremendous step forward and a strong precedent for the property rights of end users and Internet providers.

"Virginia's action means that the three states most identified with America's information economy — California, Washington and Virginia — are yet again ahead of the curve when it comes to controlling Internet abuse in their jurisdiction," Mozena said.

Gov. James Gilmore is expected to sign the legislation soon.


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