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Appeals court upholds California's anit-spam law restricting unsolicited e-mail

January 4, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — In a victory for anyone annoyed by the distasteful "spam" that clogs e-mail boxes, an appellate court has upheld California's tough 1998 law regulating unwanted commercial messages.

A state appeals court ruled earlier this week that California can require Internet "spammers" to identify their e-mails as advertisements. The court also said they must provide ways for recipients to get off their mailing lists.

The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco reversed a lower court's ruling that the law is unconstitutional. It represented the first higher court decision to validate the law.

Similar laws regulate spam, those nettlesome e-mail messages peddling porn sites, miracle diets and get-rich business deals, are in effect in 18 states. Proposed federal laws restricting spam have been under consideration in Congress since 1994.

In making its ruling, the higher court overturned a June 2000 decision by San Francisco Superior Court Judge David Garcia that rejected the law as an interference with interstate commerce. Garcia had agreed with the companies in the case that the Internet is largely immune from state regulation.

The appellate justices said California was not trying to regulate the Internet, just the content of commercial messages that reached the state. The court also said the law served important public purposes.



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