A US-based ISP has been awarded $11.2bn (£6.38bn) in a judgement against a Florida spammer who sent millions of unsolicited emails to its users.
The damages were awarded to CIS Internet Services, according to a the report by Associated Press.
Robert Kramer, the owner of CIS, filed a lawsuit against James McCalla and other defendants in 2003 claiming that more than 280 million spam email messages were sent to CIS email accounts. The emails advertised mortgages, debt consolidation services, pornographic and gambling Web sites.
The judgement, given by US District Judge Charles R. Wolle on 23 December, 2005, also prohibits McCalla from accessing the Internet for three years.
"I'm pleased with Judge Wolle's ruling," said Kramer. "It's a victory for every email user and every responsible ISP. It's proof our courts and Congress are committed to protecting the public."
"E-mail is an innovation like atomic energy or the automobile. In the beginning, the opportunity for misuse is obvious. For email, that's now changed," he said. "This ruling sets a new standard. Gross abusers of email risk exposure to public ridicule as well as the economic death penalty."
Antivirus company Sophos welcomed the size of the award against the spammer, even though there are doubts that Kramer will actually collect the money.
"This judgement against a spammer is undoubtedly the biggest we have ever heard of," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "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."
Kramer previously won $1bn against Cash Link Systems of Florida, AMP Dollar Savings of Arizona, and TEI Marketing Group of Florida as part of the same suit.
Anti-spam legislation in the US began to bite late last year. Spammer Peter Moshou pleaded guilty in June to violating the US Can-Spam Act after EarthLink sued him in January. Moshou was jailed for a year and fined $120,000.
No such fines have been imposed in the UK. But late last year a businessman struck the first legal blow against spammers when he was awarded £270 damages from a Web marketing firm.