Microsoft has won a $7 million settlement from a man once billed as one of the world's most prolific spammers. The software maker heralded...

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Microsoft has won a $7 million settlement from a man once billed as one of the world’s most prolific spammers.

The software maker heralded the deal as a coup in the fight against unsolicited commercial e-mails, known as spam. Microsoft said the money from Scott Richter and his company, OptInRealBig.com, will be used to boost efforts to combat spam and other computer misuse.

“People engage in spam to make money,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s chief counsel, said yesterday. “We have now proven that we can take one of the most profitable spammers in the world and separate him from his money. And I think that sends a powerful message to other people who might be tempted to engage in illegal spam.”

The deal is the second stemming from joint lawsuits Microsoft and New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer filed in December 2003 after Microsoft set “spam traps” that netted some 8,000 messages containing 40,000 fraudulent statements. The lawsuits sought as much as $20 million in fines against members of a sprawling spam ring.

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In the settlement announced yesterday, Richter and his company agreed to comply with federal and state laws, including Can-Spam, the federal Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act.

He pledged not to send spam to anyone who has not confirmed a willingness to receive it. He also agreed to let authorities monitor the business for three years to make sure it does not send illegal spam.

Attorneys for Richter and OptInRealBig.com, an Internet marketing company based in Westminster, Colo., did not immediately return calls for comment.

Richter was once ranked as the world’s third-most-prolific spammer. Microsoft said his business sent an estimated 38 billion spam messages a year.

Last month, Richter was removed from the Register of Known Spam Operators maintained by the Spamhaus Project, an anti-spam and consumer advocacy group. Since then, Smith said Spamhaus has reported “a massive drop in spam levels.”

Stephen Kline, Spitzer’s assistant attorney general who handled the case, hailed the settlements as “a step in the right direction.”

“Will there be others who step in and take some of the business he was doing? Sure,” Kline said. “But no one is stepping in that had quite the volume he did.”

Microsoft has filed more than 135 anti-spam lawsuits worldwide in recent years, about 100 of them in the United States. All told, the company said, it has won $838 million in judgments against spammers.