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Maryland Court Supports Assault on Spam

On January 26, 2006, Maryland's Court of Special Appeals in MaryCLE v. First Choice Internet issued an opinion holding that Maryland Courts had jurisdiction against an out-of-state company which issued e-mail advertisements, aka "spam", to a Maryland recipient. The emails were allegedly sent through third party providers hired by the New York based sender, and violated the Maryland Commercial Electronic Mail Act (MCEMA) (which became law in 2002) because they were false and misleading.  The case against the New York company was filed by a self-proclaimed Maryland consumer protection firm whose mission is to protect consumers from unscrupulous on-line marketers. 

The Maryland law bars fraudulent or misleading commercial mail used as a deceptive business practice.  MCEMA regulates UCE or "unsolicited commercial mail": mail which advertises real estate, goods or services.  Not all spam is UCE, and therefore, not all spam is unlawful under MCEMA.

As well articulate by the Court of Special Appeals: "the term “spam” originates from a skit by the British comedy  troupe Monty Python, in which a group of Vikings, singing about the Hormel Foods meat product SPAM, “sang a chorus of ‘spam, spam, spam . . . ’ in an increasing crescendo, drowning out other conversation. Hence, the analogy applied because [spam e-mail] was drowning out normal discourse on the Internet.” Spam and the Internet, (last visited Jan. 16, 2006). See also Beyond Sys., Inc. v. Realtime Gaming Holding Co., LLC, 388 Md. 1, 16 n.12 (2005)(spam can be either commercial or noncommercial)." MaryCle v. First Choice Internet, note 14.

The case was sent back to the trial court for further proceedings. 

This recent decision follows a 2005 decision of Maryland's highest court, the Court of Appeals.  In Beyond Systems v. Realtime Gaming  the Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of a law suit against an alleged violator of MCEMA, holding that the out-of-state sender did not have sufficient contact with the State of Maryland for its courts to claim jurisdiction.

The Maryland law, MCEMA, is a state corollary to recent federal legislation.  The “Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003" (“CAN-SPAM Act”) became law January 1, 2004. 15 U.S.C. § 7701 et seq.

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