Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fifth Circuit Strikes State Anti-Spoofing Law

The Fifth Circuit earlier this week ruled in Teltech Systems, Inc. v. Bryant that Mississippi's Caller ID Anti-Spoofing Act was preempted by the federal Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009.  The ruling strikes Mississippi's law, until and unless Mississippi successfully appeals.

Mississippi's Caller ID Anti-Spoofing Act prohibits a person from entering false information into a telephone caller identification system with the intent to deceive, defraud, or mislead the recipient of a call.  (Think solicitations that come up as an apparently legitimate local residential or cell phone number.)  Plaintiffs, organizations that provide third-party spoofing services, sued, arguing that the Act violated free speech and the dormant Commerce Clause, and that it was preempted by the federal Truth in Caller ID Act.  The court ruled only on this last claim.

The federal TCIA makes it unlawful for any person "to cause any caller identification service to knowingly transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value."  47 U.S.C. Sec. 227(e)(1).  

Preemption turned on the Mississippi ACA's sweep.  As the court explained, the Mississippi ACA sweeps somewhat broader than the TCIA, as it bans not only "harmful" spoofing but also "non-harmful" spoofing (done simply to deceive or mislead, but not to harm).  There was good evidence that Congress not only did not ban non-harmful spoofing, but sought to protect it.  "Congress apparently regarded some forms of spoofing worthy of protection from more restrictive state regulation."  Op. at 10.

Thus, said the court, the TCIA preempted the state ACA.  The court explained, drawing on Arizona v. United States, the immigration-and-preemption case from last Term:

Arizona v. United States is illustrative.  The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 subjects employers who hire unauthorized aliens to criminal and civil sanctions, but imposes no such penalties on the hired unauthorized aliens.  An Arizona statute . . . went further, making it a misdemeanor for unauthorized aliens to apply for, or solicit, work.  Although the Arizona statute advanced the same goal as IRCA--preventing hiring unauthorized aliens--the Court held the Arizona statute's enforcement scheme conflicted with the federal regulatory scheme.  Examining the "text, structure, and [legislative] history of IRCA," the Court held the Arizona statute posed an obstacle to "the careful balance struck by Congress with respect to unauthorized employment of aliens."

Op. at 11 (citations omitted).  

So too with Mississippi's ACA, because it banned non-harmful spoofing, a category that Congress protected.

SDS

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