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Oklahoma Man Wins $10 Million Judgment Against a Spammer

John Levine

On Thursday the 22nd, Robert Braver, an Oklahoma ISP owner who is a long time activist against both spam and junk faxes, received a default judgment of over $10 million against high profile spammer Robert Soloway and his company Newport Internet Marketing. Soloway has frequently been cited as one of the ten largest spammers in the world.

Braver originally filed his case in state court, but Soloway moved the case to Federal court earlier this year. Soloway was initially represented by attorneys, but the attorneys withdrew from the case and since then, although Solway said he'd be representing himself, he hasn't responded in the case, although he has been actively sending comments about it to usenet and mailing lists.

The decision is based both on the Federal CAN SPAM act and Oklahoma law. Based on Braver's having received Soloway's spam on about 200 separate dates, and that the spam breaks two separate Oklahoma laws both of which provide for $25,000/day in damages, the total comes to $10,075,000. The decision further forbids Soloway from future violations of CAN SPAM.

Microsoft also won a judgment against Soloway, but Braver's is considerably broader in that it has the CAN SPAM injunction. While it is unlikely that Braver will ever collect any of his $10 million, since Microsoft already has gotten whatever there is to be gotten, if Soloway violates the injunction, he could be jailed for contempt. We have heard reports that Soloway is still sending spam that violates CAN SPAM, so more legal action in the near future appears likely.

Details of the case including a copy of the decision and other documents are available on a website that Braver set up.

With any luck, this will lead to the end of Soloway's spamming. But it also points out how difficult it is to use current laws against spammers. Braver is a uniquely diligent plaintiff, and pursued the case at the cost of considerable time and expense to himself. A less determined and experienced plaintiff might wall have abandoned the effort, not for lack of a strong case, but because the process of suing spammers in Federal court is so slow and expensive.

The junk fax law (the TCPA, 47 USC 227) permits individual recipients to file suit in state courts, which is much cheaper and quicker. There is some merit to the concern that if it's too easy to sue, mailers will be faced with a blizzard of nuisance suits, as happened in Utah. But I don't think it would be hard to craft a law that had a reasonable threshold for filing suits, and perhaps for awarding costs to the loser in meritless suits. We can do a lot better than CAN SPAM.

By John Levine, Author, Consultant & Speaker. More blog posts from John Levine can also be read here.

Related topics: Spam

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Comments

Re: Oklahoma Man Wins $10 Million Judgment Against a Spammer Cascolai  –  Oct 03, 2005 11:19 AM PDT

This is great. I work for a company that has gone as far as using Artificial Intelligence in order to counteract spammers. Most people do not realize the damage that this guys cause. We have Espion Interceptors (www.espionintl.com) to filter spam.

We were having the problem of Denial of Service attacks. Email would take up to an hour to process. Although the email system does get slow while under DoS attack, the Espion Interceptors are still able to recive legitimate mail while filtering the unwanted spam So the system works great. The problem is that under a dictionary attack the Espion Interceptors still have to deal with the massive amounts of spam. We have gone as far as Implementing the LDAP facilities of the SPAM appliance in order to drop addresses that do not exist. That was on e of the best decisions we ever made, at least DoS is not so bad.

The laws should be extremely strict. We have an incredible communication system that gets disrupted by spammers, this is sad. Imagine a hospital that cannot get Laboratory results immediately due to network congestion. What if the patient dies while under a Denial of Service attack? Could we put this individuals in trial for murder? We should.

I hope that this spammer pays because all the money he has, he has earne by stealing other peoples resources. Should he be accussed of robbery? He should.

Re: Oklahoma Man Wins $10 Million Judgment Against a Spammer David MacQuigg  –  Oct 04, 2005 10:46 AM PDT

Right on, as usual.  Spammers are like dogs crapping on our lawns.  CAN SPAM takes away thousands of BB guns, and gives us one Howitzer.

I agree with you on the concern about nuisance suits.  There will be stiff opposition from lawyers, however, on any attempt to limit meritless suits.  Even if you could define merit in these cases, it would set a precedent that could threaten the legal industry.

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