Out-Law News 1 min. read

University spam blocking constitutional, says court

The University of Texas was within its rights to block spam sent by an internet dating agency, even though the unsolicited emails complied with the requirements of federal anti-spam laws, an Appeals Court has ruled.

White Buffalo Ventures LLC, the company behind dating outfit LonghornSingles.com, raised a court action against the University of Texas in 2003, after the University blocked 59,000 unsolicited emails sent by it to students.

The company had legitimately obtained the email addresses by filing a Freedom of Information request with the University, but had refused to comply with a cease and desist letter sent by the University after it started to receive complaints from students.

The blocking was not in breach of White Buffalo’s First Amendment rights, said the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals, giving its ruling on Tuesday.

Nor were the emails in breach of the CAN-SPAM Act, said the Court.

The CAN-SPAM Act also known as the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act came into force in January 2004. It established a framework of administrative, civil and criminal tools to tackle unsolicited commercial email, including an opt-out requirement, a national Do-Not-Spam list, and a ban on the sending of fraudulent or unmarked sexually oriented emails.

The Act also requires that unsolicted emails contain a valid sender address and an accurately marked subject line. Both of these were included in the LonghornSingles.com emails.

Nevertheless, the Appeals Court followed an earlier District Court ruling in favour of the University, which found that the CAN-SPAM Act “does not preclude a state entity like UT [the University] from using technological devices [such as] spam-filters to conserve server space and safeguard the time and resources of its employees, students, and faculty.”

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