Former 'spam king' to pay MySpace $6 million

By , IDG News Service |  Legal, MySpace, spam

A Colorado man has been ordered to pay US$6 million in damages and legal fees for spamming thousands of MySpace.com users.

Scott Richter of Westminster, Colorado, must pay MySpace $4.8 million in damages and $1.2 million in legal fees, a court-appointed arbitrator ruled on Thursday.

Richter, who was once accused of pumping out more than 100 million spam messages per day, had been sued by MySpace in January 2007 in connection with an August 2006 campaign in which MySpace members were hit with unsolicited messages promoting a Web site called Consumerpromotionscenter.com. The messages were sent from phished MySpace accounts, according to the findings of Philip Boesch, the court-appointed arbitrator in the case.

The messages were sent to a MySpace community that was ill-equipped to deal with any security problems. At the time, "MySpace only employed two relatively junior staff employees to deal with these issues," Boesch wrote. The company's security staff has now grown to about 40, he added.

MySpace had been seeking a court ruling in the case, but in August 2007, U.S. District Judge George King of the Central District of California granted Richter's request to assign the matter to arbitration. Terms of the award were made public on Monday.

In a statement, Richter said that he and his company, Media Breakaway, were happy to have this matter behind them, noting that the arbitrator's award was 95 percent less than the amount sought by MySpace.

"We respect the decision of the arbitrator and we're not going to appeal it," said Steven Richter, the president and general counsel of Media Breakaway and father of Scott Richter. "We're going to pay the money he awarded."

This is not the first time a Scott Richter company has had to cough up millions of dollars to fight spam charges. In 2005, his previous company, Optinrealbig.com, paid $7 million to settle similar charges brought by Microsoft.

Scott Richter was removed from anti-spam organization Spamhaus' list of known spammers that same year.

Media Breakaway, which has no other spam cases pending, is doing everything it can to build a compliance team and make sure it is acting within the law, Steven Richter said.

MySpace said the Richter award was the latest in a series of steps it has taken to combat abuse on its Web site. In May, the company was awarded a $230 million antispam judgment against Sanford Wallace and Walter Rines.

"This award reflects MySpace's continued momentum and holistic approach to ridding the site of spammers and phishers," MySpace said in a statement. "We will continue to do our part in cleansing the Internet of this invasive onslaught of spam."

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