Spammers who thought they had a virtually free ride on the Net are increasingly having to pay for the resources they use.
Earlier this week, a Travis County district court in Texas ordered a spammer to pay $19,000 for clogging up an ISP and personal email box when he falsified the return address on an unsolicited email advertisement he sent over the Net.
The judgment comes on top of a growing trend of ISPs fining people who use their systems to send spam. Both EarthLink and Concentric fine spammers $200 for sending out unsolicited junk email from their systems.
Other companies have gone after spammers in court, and some have won.
Internet companies complain that spam is not only annoying, but also costs them thousands of dollars by using up network resources.
Many have altered their systems to prevent spammers from using their mail servers to send mass mailings. But anyone can put in a false return address, a practice known as "spoofing."
In this case, Tracy LaQuey Parker, Patrick Parker, their ISP, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation-Austin sued Craig Nowak, owner of C.N. Enterprises in San Diego, for using the Parkers' domain name, "flowers.com," as a return address on a piece of junk email he distributed.
Tracy LaQuey Parker's Internet service provider, Zilker Internet Park, was forced to handle thousands and thousands of "bounced" email messages, which temporarily disabled its mail server, according to the judgment.
"The defendants used Zilker Internet Park's electronic mail handling resources and storage capacity without permission," the judgment states.
Jon Lebkowsky, president of EFF-Austin, said the decision should help alleviate the practice of spoofing, but isn't likely to put a stop to spam.
"It's an interesting victory," he said. "Flowers.com was being used as a wastebasket for bounces and complaints. I would hope it would stop spoofing. Spam's another issue."
Nowak could not be reached for comment.