02-20-2006, 12:35 AM
Spammer Ordered to Pay $11.2 billion
Whoa, there's a difference in "cracking down" and going crazy...
An Midwest internet service provider was awarded an $11.2 billion judgment against a Florida man for sending millions of unsolicited e-mails advertising mortgage and debt consolidation services.
The lawsuit, filed in 2003 by Iowa's CIS Internet Services, also prompted earlier judgments against companies in Florida and Arizona worth more than $1 billion.
"This ruling sets a new standard," said CIS owner Robert Kramer III. "Gross abusers of e-mail risk exposure to public ridicule as well as the economic death penalty."
The most recent judgment was issued Dec. 23 against James McCalla of Florida, who is also barred from accessing the internet for three years.
The lawsuit claimed that McCalla sent more than 280 million illegal spam e-mails into CIS's network, which provides internet connections in Eastern Iowa and parts of Illinois.
Kramer's lawsuit initially named numerous defendants, many of whom were dropped from the lawsuit in the last couple of years. In 2004, judgments totaling more than $1 billion were issued against Cash Link Systems and the TEI Marketing Group, both of Florida, and AMP Dollar Savings of Arizona.
The lawsuit said the defendants used the cis.net domain in the e-mails as part of a false return address to disguise their source and deflect complaints to CIS.
Kramer claimed that under state law he was entitled to $10 per illegal e-mail but didn't expect to receive any of the judgment money.
According to the website for the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail, large numbers of junk e-mails have knocked out or disrupted internet provider systems belonging to large companies such as AT&T, as well as systems belonging to smaller rural providers such as CIS. Additionally, the massive numbers of spam e-mails cost businesses and individuals millions of dollars annually.
John Mozena, co-founder and vice president of CAUCE, said Kramer's lawsuit will likely not solve the spamming problem.
"There have been regulatory actions and even criminal actions against spammers, but it has not made much of a dent in the total volume of spam we see," he said. "Spam is still roughly two-thirds of all e-mail on the internet."
He said sending unsolicited commercial e-mail is not illegal in the United States. It is only illegal to send dishonest spam, which includes forging a company's domain name onto the e-mail or having a misleading subject line.
"What we need is a federal anti-spam law, such as some countries such as Australia have," he said. "Spamming is illegal in Australia."