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America Online has won a court judgment for nearly $7 million in damages against what it termed a “spam ring” that bombarded AOL members with junk e-mail pitching adult Web sites. AOL said the damages awarded by the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., was the largest ever from one of its lawsuits against spammers. AOL has filed some 20 of such lawsuits over the years. “This sends a message to both members and spammers that we take spam seriously on this service,” AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said Tuesday. One of the defendants in the latest case was CN Productions, a company AOL successfully sued in 1999. AOL had won $1.9 million in damages against CN Productions and an injunction barring the company and its president, Jay Nelson, from sending junk messages to AOL members. AOL later asked the court to hold them in contempt, saying spamming from them had continued. Graham said the new award, issued in October and unsealed in late November, was on top of the $1.9 million, some of which has not yet been collected. Joseph Peter Drennan, a lawyer for Nelson, said his client was driven into bankruptcy by the lawsuit and thus was “not given an opportunity to deal with the specific allegations on an even playing field.” In the complaint that led to the most recent award, AOL said CN and its associates transmitted more than 1 billion junk messages, accounting for a quarter of complaints AOL received about spam promoting adult sites. AOL and other larger Internet service providers routinely take spammers to court and win hefty judgments, often because defendants fail to show up. But the service providers often are unable to collect damages, and injunctions against specific spammers generally have little effect in stopping the flood of junk e-mail. Nonetheless, Graham said, such rulings help deter “those currently spamming and those thinking of setting up spamming operations.” Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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