Spammer faces $11.2 billion judgment

Out-Law News | 06 Jan 2006 | 12:51 pm | 1 min. read

A Florida-based spammer has been ordered to pay $11.2 billion after an Iowa district court upheld a complaint filed by a small ISP. Its servers were clogged when spammer James McCalla sent more than 280 million emails, according to the Associated Press.

CIS Internet Services sued under a state law that can cost a spammer $10 per email. Judge Charles Wolle ordered McCalla to pay $11.2 billion and banned him from using the internet for three years.

It is the second success for CIS in the same lawsuit: the ISP won a $1 billion judgment against three other spammers in December 2004. In fact, CIS owner Robert Kramer named 300 alleged spammers when he filed his lawsuit in 2003 after he was forced to upgrade his servers in 2000 to cope with a deluge of up to 10 million spam emails per day. Most of the defendants have now been dropped from the action.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Kramer admitted that he was unlikely to get paid, but argued that the ruling sets a new standard. "Gross abusers of email risk exposure to public ridicule as well as the economic death penalty," he said.

Graham Clulely, senior technology consultant for security firm Sophos, welcomed the ruling.

"Spam is not just a nuisance for individual computer users who find their inboxes clogged up with unwanted mail, but for ISPs who are hit in the pocket by having to pay for the bandwidth to deliver and store hundreds of millions of messages," he said.

In the UK, Virgin Net sued a customer, Adrian Paris, for sending spam from his ISP account. That case, in 1999, alleged breach of contract and trespass – at the time there were no anti-spam laws in the UK. It settled out of court, with Paris agreeing to pay Virgin Net5,000 in costs and damages and undertaking not to send spam to Virgin Net customers in future.

Under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations of 2003, a person who has suffered "damage" from spam that originated in the UK can seek compensation. The first person to exercise this right successfully was Nigel Roberts, a chartered engineer from Alderney.

Roberts won an undefended court action against Falkirk-based Media Logistics (UK) Ltd in December 2005. The company paid him £300 to avoid a damages hearing. Had that hearing taken place, Roberts would have faced the difficult task of proving that a single email received from Media Logistics caused him quantifiable damage.