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The judgment relies upon Washington state's tough anti-spam law, which says each spam can cost the sender $500. Although Judge Bruce Hilyer was convinced Featherston received 58,000 illegal e-mails, the plaintiff only asked for $250,000, rather than the $29 million to which he could have been entitled.
"This judgment sends a signal that people are not going to stand for invasions from spammers," said Featherston. "Some spammers have this warped idea that their freedom of speech is guaranteed all the way into my hard drive, but it is my firm belief that their rights end at my firewall."
Neither Childs nor Lightfoot, who is also known as Linda Beasley, responded to Featherston's charges.
The FTC says Childs and Lightfoot promoted a "get rich quick" chain mail scheme via spam and Web sites, promising participants they'd receive $10,000 in "gifts" within a "short period." Recipients of the e-mail and visitors to the Web sites were asked to pay a one-time $41 membership fee.
The fight against spam has long relied upon technological solutions, but in recent months, with the passing of state laws forbidding the practice, the battle has increasingly taken place in the courts. Last month EarthLink filed suit to try to shut down spam rings in Alabama and Vancouver, accusing nearly 100 people of bank fraud and credit card theft. Previously, EarthLink won a $16 million judgment against a man known as the "Buffalo Spammer". Both America Online and Microsoft have also filed suits aiming to protect their members from spammers.