Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

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U.S. CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 & State Anti-Spam Laws:

In the case of Gordon v. Virtumundo, 575 F.3d 1040 (9th Cir. 2009), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit interpreted the CAN-SPAM Act's standing requirements for "internet access service" providers, and ruled on the preemption of claims under Washington State's Commercial Electronic Mail Act ("CEMA").

As a result of this case, claims brought under CEMA for commercial email activities involving deceptive email headers will be dismissed as preempted by the CAN-SPAM Act. Since the CAN-SPAM Act doesn't preempt statutes that aren't specific to commercial email, analogous claims may survive under common law or other statutory frameworks. Nevertheless, these claims wouldn't be connected to CEMA's statutory framework for calculating damages. See also CAN-SPAM Act of 2003: Preemption; Inbox Project FAQ: What can states regulate?; Washington State Attorney General Website: Washington's Law on Spam.

State Consumer Protection Laws & Other Relevant Common-Law Frameworks:

In Gordon v. Virtumundo, the Ninth Circuit held that, in order to survive preemption under the CAN-SPAM Act, Washington's consumer protection statute - as applied to commercial emails - would have to be interpreted to prohibit only significantly ("materially") false or misleading header information or subject lines. Moreover, because an action brought under this statute is similar to a traditional tort action, the plaintiff would have to show a direct causal connection ("proximate causation") between the acts violating the law and actual damages suffered by the plaintiff.

The Ninth Circuit's appellate jurisdiction extends over the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii, and extends to the Territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.