Silverpop - New Utah Ruling Helps Emailers
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New Utah Ruling Helps Emailers

Bill Nussey, Silverpop
by: Bill Nussey (@bnussey)
17 February 2006

Good news on the email marketing legal front. Utah, which last year enacted a well-meaning but ill-informed child protection law regulating email, was dealt a setback last week from its own state Supreme Court. (See the news article.)

In an action that severely limits state's ability to exert jurisdiction in email cases, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that Utah never had jurisdiction over out-of-state emailers under a now-defunct anti-spam law.

Although this case addresses an old statute--not the new one creating a do-not-email registry for children--the ruling lays out a high standard that makes it more difficult for the state and plaintiffs to prosecute out-of-state emailers under the new law.

The decision was handed down in the case of a Utah resident, who sued an Arizona-based company under Utah state law for illegally spamming her. Although the law was repealed shortly after the passage of the federal CAN-SPAM Act, the question of jurisdiction remained open.

But the state Supreme Court found that Utah cannot exert jurisdiction unless the defendant's messages create a "substantial connection" within the state. The decision reverses an earlier ruling by the state appellate court that sending even one email to a resident of Utah is sufficient to give the state jurisdiction.

In its opinion, the court said adopting a blanket "one-email rule" imposes an unfair burden on corporations, which would be required to know the laws of each state and to be prepared to litigate in all of them. This is exactly the sort of complication that prompted the federal government to preempt the Utah law and similar ones in other states with CAN-SPAM.

"Since geographical locations aren't generally part of email addresses, it can be extremely difficult for law-abiding businesses to know with which of these disparate statues they are required to comply," the court said.




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