California Attorney-General, Bill Lockyer, has claimed victory in the state's first antispam lawsuit, after a court ordered PW Marketing and its owners to pay a $US2 million fine for violating California laws against sending unsolicited commercial email.
Spam costs US businesses nearly $9 billion a year in lost productivity and screening expenses, and accounted for about 40 per cent of all email, Lockyer said.
His office would continue to enforce antispam laws against the "high tech pollutant", he said.
The case was won one month after California passed tough new antispam legislation prohibiting unsolicited email advertisements sent to or from any California residents. That statute takes effect on January 1, 2004.
PW Marketing and its owners, Paul Willis and Claudia Griffin, were charged under current California antispam law for sending millions of unsolicited email advertisements promoting products that claimed to help recipients make money through sending spam that hawked books, software and lists of email addresses, the Attorney-General's office said.
The lawsuit was filed in September 2002.
In addition to the $2 million fine, the company and its owners were prohibited from sending any unsolicited commercial email, disguising their identity by sending email that appears to originate from an email address that is not their own and accessing and using computers and computer systems of persons without their permission.
Furthermore, they were barred for 10 years from owning, managing and holding any economic interest in any company that advertises over the Internet without first providing written notice to the attorney general.
Lockyer said hat he would use the same "injunctive relief" provisions in future enforcement actions.
The court victory punctuates a time of increasing concern over spam among both politicians and Internet industry players who see it as a modern day scourge that curbs the Net's legitimate business potential.
Representatives of PW Marketing were not available for comment at the time of going to press.