Techdirt's First Amendment Fight For Its Life

from the the-first-amendment-has-to-mean-something dept

As you may have heard, last week we were sued for $15 million by Shiva Ayyadurai, who claims to have invented email. We have written, at great length, about his claims and our opinion — backed up by detailed and thorough evidence — that email existed long before Ayyadurai created any software. We believe the legal claims in the lawsuit are meritless, and we intend to fight them and to win.

There is a larger point here. Defamation claims like this can force independent media companies to capitulate and shut down due to mounting legal costs. Ayyadurai’s attorney, Charles Harder, has already shown that this model can lead to exactly that result. His efforts helped put a much larger and much more well-resourced company than Techdirt completely out of business.

So, in our view, this is not a fight about who invented email. This is a fight about whether or not our legal system will silence independent publications for publishing opinions that public figures do not like.

And here’s the thing: this fight could very well be the end of Techdirt, even if we are completely on the right side of the law.

Whether or not you agree with us on our opinions about various things, I hope that you can recognize the importance of what’s at stake here. Our First Amendment is designed to enable a free and open press — a press that can investigate and dig, a press that can challenge and expose. And if prominent individuals can make use of a crippling legal process to silence that effort, or even to create chilling effects among others, we become a weaker nation and a weaker people because of it.

We are a truly small and independent media company. We do not have many resources. We intend to fight this baseless lawsuit because of the principles at stake, but we have no illusions about the costs. It will take a toll on us, even if we win. It will be a distraction, no matter what happens. It already has been — which may well have been part of Ayyadurai’s intent.

I am beyond thankful to the many of you who have reached out and offered to help in all sorts of ways. It is heartening to know so many people care about Techdirt. At some point soon, we may set up a dedicated legal defense fund. But, in the meantime, any support you can provide us will help — whether it’s just alerting people to this situation and the danger of trying to stifle a free press through meritless lawsuits, or it’s supporting Techdirt directly (or, if you have a company, advertising with us). As always, you can support us directly as a Friend of Techdirt, or check out some of the other perks you can get in our Insider program. You can also support us via Patreon.

If freedom of expression and the press is to actually mean something, it needs to be protected, not stomped on with baseless lawsuits that silence independent voices and opinions.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: floor64, techdirt

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Techdirt's First Amendment Fight For Its Life”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
414 Comments
Doug says:

Re: Re: Re:

It really is our fight, because, for example, I thought about showing solidarity with TechDirt by posting on twitter how Mr.Email didn’t invent email, using the same info TD used, but then I was chilled. I don’t need a lawsuit anymore than TD does.

Using the courts as a “tool” in any fight is terrible. Courts should be used to resolve disputes on an equitable basis, not as a weapon that helps you win just because you have more money.

Anti-SLAPP, loser-pays approaches are sorely needed, especially when it comes to free speech.

Big Money says:

Re: Re:

Really? We are supposed to donate to SAVE TechDirt.com when the owners of the site have made no attempt to share the proceeds made from the site with us?

Gents: This is a business. Business has risks. Defend yourself — don’t ask for “donations.”

Money-grubbing lawyers ….

Jon says:

Re: Re: Re:

Really? And then tell me what TechDirt is going to get from this lawsuit can you?? They have no obligation to share the proceeds from the site, you get info in exchange for visiting and viewing ads, idiot. You don’t need to donate if you don’t want to, but then again you don’t need to be a little b#tch and post about how you are not going to donate to them either.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Loser must pay

Supposedly, the lawyer suing him has another case where, even though the suit was brought against his client in Florida, he successfully filed an anti-SLAPP suit in California because that’s where his client resided.

Mike also lives in California, and it has really strong anti-SLAPP laws.

Is turnabout fair play?

Monday (profile) says:

Re: Do you have a specific donation page for funding?

I Know. Go on and ridicule, but I say Get on Kickstarter. It’s not as silly or useless as, perhaps, you Mike, might think. TD is not the only rodeo. There are hundreds of sites that people visit with the same reporting. Once They hear about a fight for First Amendment Rights, and a Life and Death struggle involving TechDirt, they’ll be on board.

AND, get the trial etc. re-located to your state! Loser Pays! SLAPP the lunatic down…

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Not via legal action. Lying is not illegal per se, and he’s not defaming anyone or anything like that.

I believe Ray Tomlinson’s estate would disagree with you. Mr (not)”theinventorofemail” was really nasty to Ray and the companies who announced his death. He certainly defamed Mr. Tomlinson in stating that he wasn’t the “Father of Email” and arguing Mr. Tomlinson wasn’t instrumental in the development of the electronic mail system we all use, instead of some pet project a 14 year old came up with that nobody (beyond a small medical college) has ever used.

AricTheRed says:

Re: Re:

“lax and cozy relationship with some groups…”

I hope you know what lax means.

Regardless, you sound like a bit of a Cee You Next Tuesday.

There does not appear to be anything lax about this publications relationship with the groups that you feel they should throw themselves at the feet of, and beg for their strength and protection.

By the way who are you Peter Thiel, or some dick from Comcast or Verizon?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I dont think Thief would be posting comments on techdirt. he has his hands/mouth/other orifices full most of the time to bother.

It’s only my opinion but given the rumors about a certain buttugly hasbeen wrestler, wouldn’t surprise me if they were buttin’ uglies and thats why he chose THAT case to bankroll

Tang says:

Re: Re:

EFF is going to screw them over and demand that Techdirt follow their editorial direction if they want EFF’s support. There are people that Techdirt will no longer be allowed to criticize, and Techdirt will be given fake stories that they would be advised to run if they want the EFF to remain enthusiastic about Techdirt’s case. EFF has been compromised for years.

AC says:

What goes around, comes around

Mike, you have literally made a living for years by blogging personal attacks and insults against people with whom you disagree. You could have chosen to present your arguments and let the reader decide. But you chose, over and over, to call people names. THAT is what this case is about. I’m delighted that one of them finally decided to fight back. If you can’t afford the cost of your actions, then you probably need a better business model. Try selling more t-shirts.

CK20XX (profile) says:

Re: What goes around, comes around

Except there’s a high chance that no judge will see it that way… though, we do, admittedly, live in a post-truth era now.

Besides, this is always the wrong attitude to have. If you see one of your enemies fall, you shouldn’t gloat, but be sad that things came to what they did, because it is always a shame to see a life go to waste.

Franklin G Ryzzo (profile) says:

Re: What goes around, comes around

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me…

Insulting someone is not grounds for a lawsuit. Defamation is about materially untrue statements being made as fact in such a way that it injures someone’s reputation. Mike has never said anything that is untrue about Ayyadurai. The man did not invent email, and this is established historical fact. The lawsuit is baseless and the fact that you are championing it as just deserts shows how little respect you have for the 1st Amendment.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: What goes around, comes around

A flat ‘You lied’ is rather different than ‘You lied and here’s the proof demonstrating that’. Even if Mike was wrong he still based his claim upon what evidence was available to him, and if saying something that you think is correct based upon the facts you have is grounds for being sued by someone who thinks otherwise then there is a whole bunch of people that need to shut their mouths I’d say.

But I’m getting on a tangent, what exactly was Mike ‘reckless about checking’ in pointing out that the claims made were without factual basis?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 What goes around, comes around

Oh, I’m betting that they’ll be moving into the territory of using third party comments on the site against Mike, and trying to remove his safe harbor protections.

I don’t think it will work, but that in itself can cause a domino effect of trials, retrials, etc. that smacks of SCO. Mike doesn’t have IBM’s limitless pool of top notch lawyers to lean on; he’s not going to be able to wait this legal attack out — he’s going to need judges and defense lawyers who see this for what it is and figure out some way to short circuit the proceedings to arrive at the eventual outcome sooner rather than later.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: What goes around, comes around

Except if the insult is "you lied" and you didn’t lie, and Mike was reckless about checking whether you, in fact, lied. Then it IS defamation.

Leaving aside that it’s questionable whether or not "you lied" is a strong enough criticism to qualify as defamation, Masnick provided ample sources and supporting information for his protected opinion.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 What goes around, comes around

Google search for reckless disregard for truth, first result:
http://dictionary.findlaw.com/definition/reckless-disregard-of-the-truth.html

Uneducated or no, he’s not actually wrong about reckless disregard for truth being a criterion for defamation.

But it doesn’t apply here. Mike’s posts about Ayyadurai are well-researched and have citations.

killthelawyers (profile) says:

Re: What goes around, comes around

Calling someone names isn’t libel. Claiming something factually untrue is. This case is about TD’s claim that the plaintiff did not invent email and that he has lied or misled people by representing that he did so. Legally speaking, if Mike merely insulted the guy this wouldn’t even be a case.

To put it another way, your schadenfreude is balanced by mild amusement at your ignorance.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What goes around, comes around

“Mike, you have literally made a living for years by blogging personal attacks and insults against people with whom you disagree. You could have chosen to present your arguments and let the reader decide. But you chose, over and over, to call people names. THAT is what this case is about. I’m delighted that one of them finally decided to fight back. If you can’t afford the cost of your actions, then you probably need a better business model. Try selling more t-shirts.”

Amen. This has been long overdue. There’s reasonable disagreement, and then there’s Mike’s ridiculous and childish personal attacks.

Mike’s awesome business model is really coming together:

1. Cloaking his childish insults in the First Amendment? Check.
2. Begging for more money? Check.
3. Planning on selling more t-shirts to make ends meet? Check.
4. Taking no responsibility for any of the awful things he’s done? Check.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 What goes around, comes around

Reading through it, I honestly can’t understand why the lawyer thought this case has any chance of winning. They reference multiple articles and stories, but don’t ever disprove the statements. This is clearly an attempt to bankrupt someone through a vindictive lawsuit but if Mike is able to make it to the trial, he will win in a landslide and hopefully the judge will impose sanctions on the prosecution for wasting everyone’s time and money.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 What goes around, comes around

Define ‘winning’. Winning on the facts, no, that is not going to happen. Winning through driving the other side into the ground through protracted legal fighting and the associated costs, such that they have no choice but to fold, that is a very real possibility, and almost certainly the true goal.

RR says:

Re: Re: Re:5 What goes around, comes around

For Ayyadurai it’s not just about “winning this case”. It’s about making an example of TD that he can point to when he wants to shutdown the next site. Just like the Gawker win. Look at the various news sites reporting on this lawsuit, they are all already being careful not to call him out on his bullshit claims.

Cowardly Lion says:

Re: Re: Re:6 What goes around, comes around

That’s what I find concerning, the Domino Effect. If one folds, others may too. And TOG is right, it’s not about the facts, it’s about resources, and this fantasist who wrote a program called EMAIL thinking it’s e-mail, was recently awarded a shed load of money…

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 What goes around, comes around

There are certainly some personal attacks in there; he repeatedly calls Ayyadurai a liar, and makes it clear that he believes he’s a scam artist (even if he doesn’t use those exact words). That’s pretty personal.

Childish? Yeah, sure, I’ll grant that. The article where he kept repeating the phrase "Shiva Ayyadurai did not invent email" wasn’t exactly the paragon of maturity.

Ridiculous? Well, that’s a matter of opinion. I think his articles were perfectly reasonable. People are welcome to disagree.

But, fun fact: saying things that are personal attacks, childish, ridiculous, or even all three is not actually illegal.

Criticism is not defamation, even if it’s mean or immature.

Regardless of his tone, Masnick stated (1) protected opinions that were based on (2) cited supporting evidence. This is a SLAPP suit, plain and simple; Ayyadurai and Harder don’t have a case, they’re just using the legal system to cause financial harm to someone who called them names. That’s completely fucking despicable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 What goes around, comes around

Claiming to invent something and then selling that story to make money off of it is … not a scam? It’s not a lie if you believe it enough?

Stating “facts” should not be perceived as attacks, and if they are then something obviously isn’t right…

TD should just write an article citing “extremely credible sources” that DT invented email and ask PEOTUS for comment…that should put an end to it…

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 What goes around, comes around

Claiming to invent something and then selling that story to make money off of it is … not a scam?

Don’t look at me; I never said that. I said it was a personal attack; I never said it wasn’t the truth.

That was my entire point: there is not actually any law against "ridiculous and childish personal attacks". What Mike said wasn’t very nice, but that doesn’t make it defamation. Everything he said was either a factual statement which he provided evidence for, or an opinion based on facts which he provided evidence for.

No defamation occurred. Calling someone names is not defamation. Hurting someone’s feelings is not defamation. Hurting someone’s reputation is not defamation.

Defamation requires one of:

  1. making factual statements that are knowingly false,
  2. making factual statements with reckless disregard for whether they’re true or false, or
  3. expressing opinions that imply 1 or 2.

It’s quite clear that Mike did none of those things. The factual statements he made are true, and have the citations to prove it; the opinions he expressed are based on those same cited facts.

Whether or not he engaged in "ridiculous and childish personal attacks" is irrelevant. There’s no law against hurting Shiva Ayyadurai’s feelings.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 What goes around, comes around

I quickly read through the complaint. I still don’t understand what you are referring to as "childish personal attacks" myself, but whatever.

I did find this bit amusing though:

These statements also resulted in a wave of efforts by others to discredit Dr. Ayyadurai and erase him from the history of electronic communications, attacks on Wikipedia that remove reference to his contribution,…

So Techdirt’s articles created a "wave of efforts by others to discredit Dr. Ayyadurai". Of course, none of that was caused by Ayyadurai’s own actions, right? Techdirt’s influence on the greater internet is simply amazing!

And this part: "attacks on Wikipedia that remove reference to his contribution" is really good too. Techdirt has somehow brainwashed all the independent editors at Wikipedia, instead of them simply fact-checking entries like they always do. Funny stuff.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 What goes around, comes around

On the other hand, I did a Google search on "History of Email." One of the "featured snippets" – quick related questions and answers that Google put between the search results – is "Who is called the creator of email?" This lists Ayyadurai as the answer.

I followed the "Search for: Who is called the creator of email?", followed by the "Feedback" link, and flagged it as incorrect. With the following comment:

While Shiva Ayyadurai claims to have invented email, it’s well documented that email systems were around long before he created his own version named "EMAIL." This should be clarified or the answer changed to "Ray Tomlinson and others."

I recommend that others do the same. Not to discredit Dr. Ayyadurai, but to correct the record and ensure accurate information.

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 What goes around, comes around

These statements also resulted in a wave of efforts by others to discredit Dr. Ayyadurai and erase him from the history of electronic communications, attacks on Wikipedia that remove reference to his contribution,…

I think that quote would be more accurate if it read:

"These statements also resulted in a wave of efforts by others to correct the disinformation spread by Dr. Ayyadurai and correctly state his place in the history of electronic communications, edits on wikipedia that more accurately reflect the history…"

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: What goes around, comes around

Last I checked, ridiculous and childish personal attacks weren’t illegal.

… or even qualitative. One person’s ridicule is another person’s incredulity. One person’s childish is another person’s innocence. One person’s attacks are another person’s stating the truth.

When we get to stating things that have been proven to be untrue with the intent of harming another person, then we’ve got to the territory of illegal. Mike was stating facts and opinions based on those facts, and wasn’t trying to harm anyone; rather, he was standing up for those who were being harmed by the refuted claims of those bringing this suit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: What goes around, comes around

That line brings flashbacks to an incident that it describes better than Mike’s frustrated refutations of a litigious glory hound. Namely convicted ex-judge and all around scumbag Mark Civarella’s Kids for Cash scandal. Where among many other petty misdemeanors his corrupt kangaroo court sentenced minors for was the not-even-illegal obvious fake mocking myspace page for her principal.

XcOM987 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: What goes around, comes around

Ironicly it was Mike that said (Paraphrasing here) Even if you don’t like what is being said you should still feel offended and worried about the attacks against their free speech.

Who will you turn to when a precedence is set and someone takes offence to what your saying, will what you say be protected by Free Speech when someone doesn’t like you or what you say in general?

Dan Audy says:

Re: Re: What goes around, comes around

Given that this is Charles Harder we are talking about I’m pretty confident that Shiva’s lawyer either knows he is full of shit or has been reckless negligence in his duty as a lawyer to ensure his client has a valid claim. Either way he will continue to be an example of everything that is wrong with the legal profession while laughing all the way to the bank with the buckets of cash he is being paid.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: What goes around, comes around

“[Y]ou have literally made a living for years by blogging personal attacks and insults against people with whom you disagree.”

That is not against the law. You may disagree with it, but that does not make what he does illegal (or punishable by a lawsuit).

“You could have chosen to present your arguments and let the reader decide.”

If you do not like the “direction” in which this blog “leans” or the tone in which it is written, you are free to go read a blog that you think is more “objective” or “friendly”. The site’s editorial slant and tone are not illegal.

“But you chose, over and over, to call people names. THAT is what this case is about.”

This lawsuit is about punishing Techdirt for lawful (and truthful) speech – about leveraging the judiciary against a media outlet for printing speech that is not defamatory.

The main gist of the lawsuit is that Techdirt defamed Ayyadurai by claiming he did not invent email. Techdirt has presented a coherent, factual, and easy-to-follow case as to why that claim is true. If you want to whine about how Techdirt presented that case, go ahead. But that whining does not change the underlying facts presented by Techdirt in its claim. If you can present a factual argument that counters Techdirt’s claim, you may want to contact Mr. Ayyadurai yourself; he will probably need your help.

“If you can’t afford the cost of your actions, then you probably need a better business model.”

Techdirt is not being sued for defamation because they actually defamed someone. It is being sued for defamation because an asshole with a lot of resources at his disposal decided he wanted to silence critics with via lawsuits. Do you really believe Techdirt should pay the ultimate cost – bankruptcy and shutdown – for presenting factual, non-defamatory information?

Or do you just not give a damn about the First Amendment?

JMT says:

Re: What goes around, comes around

“Mike, you have literally made a living for years by blogging personal attacks and insults against people with whom you disagree.”

So what? If people do things that make them worthy of being insulted (and TD has documented thousands of examples) then they deserve to be insulted. Of course, thin-skinned authoritarians like you perceive any accurate description you don’t agree with as an insult, because how dare anyone publicly call you out!

“You could have chosen to present your arguments and let the reader decide.”

Er, how is that not what happens? I read, I decide.

“But you chose, over and over, to call people names. THAT is what this case is about.”

Not sure if you realise how ignorant that sounds, but this is a defamation case, which by definition is not about name-calling but about stating falsehoods. Feel free to refute any points Mike’s actually made in this story that would legally quality as defamation. I note you’ve done nothing close to that yet. Just lots of blah, blah.

“I’m delighted that one of them finally decided to fight back.”

You’re delighted that the legal system is being abused in an attempt to stifle someone’s constitutionally guaranteed right of free speech? Wow, that’s a pretty sick attitude. You know there’s no legal merit here, so you know this is a pure SLAPP case.

Anonymous Coward says:

The irony of internet trolls gloating when someone is shut down (Gawker) or threatened to be shut down (Techdirt) over what they’ve said that others disagree with is both sad and humorous.

“I think anyone who exercises the right to free speech should be silenced! Wait, why are you trying to silence me?”

The trolls will have to find a new forum to spout their corporatist nonsense if TD goes down.

That One Guy (profile) says:

It’s a few months early but this certainly provides a solid reason to spring for a watercooler subscription this time around.

The most disgusting part of this, even more so than Shiva using the legal system to bully people who say mean things about him is the fact that even if he loses he still wins, since without a strong federal anti-SLAPP law on the books these kinds of lawsuits are basically no-risk affairs.

metalliqaz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No doubt the filing in Massachusetts was intentional because they have a very weak anti-SLAPP law. It only protects cases that involve speech directed at the government. However, it is possible that Techdirt could fit into a broad interpretation of the guidelines since they usually are talking about government-related topics like lawsuits and policy making.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

Personally, I don’t agree with techdirt’s assessment. The same constitutional rights that protect techdirt’s first amendment claim are also the same constitutional rights that can penalize sites like techdirt from running articles without backing up its information.

Far too often I see techdirt running articles that are first posted by other sites, quoting the same quotes that those other sites are quoting from.

I simply think that techdirt, if they cave in or lose, might be on its last legs because I don’t think they do any research except generate a few quotes from people involved with the subject matter they are posting about.

This is why I have policies set in place on my site that prevent registered members from posting messages without any sources or research.

Unfortunately, techdirt could lose just from the attrition of this lawsuit.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Okay, you get a funny vote for that one.

Your complaint is that TD doesn’t do enough ‘original’ research and simply ‘quoting the same quotes that those other sites are quoting from’? The First has nothing against that, so I’m failing to see how TD could or should be penalized for that.

As for presenting it’s own content TD is typically really good about providing supporting evidence, so no clue where your first paragraphs is from either.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I agree. I have not seen anything yet that doesn’t have supporting links unless it is so blatantly obvious, that only a disturbed person would question the statement in the first place. You can disagree with Mike all you like, but that doesn’t make anything said wrong or illegal. I plan on supporting the defense fund monthly for as long as this farce takes to work itself out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Which is the entire point of it being financed in the first place. A billionaire with hurt feelings and a legal team that is willing to be as evil as he asks is all it takes to ruin lives. Hopefully he has a change of heart soon and either stops this dumb stuff or has it done to him until he no longer has the ability to ruin lives through vindictive litigation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“The same constitutional rights that protect techdirt’s first amendment claim are also the same constitutional rights that can penalize sites like techdirt from running articles without backing up its information.”

I’m not sure that you know what you’re talking about, here. The First Amendment does not require that you do independent research when commenting on public figures. It merely requires that you do not post facts that you believe are false. And to the extent that people have a right to not be defamed, I would say that’s not a constitutional right – it’s a right based in the law, which is not the same thing. If tomorrow your state abolished defamation as a tort, that would not violate your constitutional rights.

As far as the lawsuit goes, the plaintiff’s argument seems to be that since TechDirt knew Gawker settled the lawsuit, they also knew that the underlying claims were true. That’s ridiculous.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The First Amendment does not require that you do independent research when commenting on public figures. It merely requires that you do not post facts that you believe are false.

What First Amendment are you reading? Wikipedia says the full text is "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

It doesn’t say anything about "facts that you believe are false"; in fact, "free exercise" of speech requires that people be allowed to lie, although SCOTUS generally ignore that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It doesn’t say anything about "facts that you believe are false"; in fact, "free exercise" of speech requires that people be allowed to lie, although SCOTUS generally ignore that.

Interesting thing here: the reason that there are copyright etc. lawyers is that the constitution was not written and then referred to out of context by each judge who wanted to decide future cases.

Every year, judging becomes more and more complex, as case law based on previous decisions becomes part of the deciding factors. This means that the current legal understanding of the 1st Amendment and associated torts and laws is not just the full text on Wikipedia; it fills multiple volumes, based on all the cases decided since the amendment was first signed, and changes to state laws that take these decisions into consideration.

There must be a compelling reason (I’d say even beyond the weak anti-SLAPP law) why they filed this in MA. It probably has to do with the case law on the subject and how they can believably interpret it, as well as a solid strategy for stringing this out into 10+ years of hearings, filings and trials.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: [first amendment requirements]

First Amendment does not require research, nowhere in its text will you find such a thing. The US Supremes, in Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), said that an action by a public figure will only lie if there is what they term malice.

Malice is either knowing falsehood or reckless disregard. In other words, you can repeat something you heard, even if it is false, so long as you do not believe it to be false or avoid finding out that it is false.

There is a great body of work on this subject and I am summarizing, leaving out many nuances.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 [first amendment requirements]

If you define “research” at its most basic level — say, did you spend thirty seconds on Google to see if what you’re saying is true or not — then yeah, lack of research could qualify as reckless disregard.

But, as I’ve noted elsewhere in the comments, that standard clearly does not apply here; Mike’s articles all contained detailed arguments and cited sources for their claims.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The same constitutional rights that protect techdirt’s first amendment claim are also the same constitutional rights that can penalize sites like techdirt from running articles without backing up its information.

What the heck are you talking about here? The Constitution doesn’t penalize, it enumerates the unalienable rights of the people and defines how the government is to be kept from infringing those rights.

 

Far too often I see techdirt running articles that are first posted by other sites, quoting the same quotes that those other sites are quoting from.
 

This is why I have policies set in place on my site that prevent registered members from posting messages without any sources or research.

Umm, yeah. This isn’t a news site, it’s an opinion blog. Kind of hard to give an opinion on something without giving background first.

 

Unfortunately, techdirt could lose just from the attrition of this lawsuit.

Well yeah. As Mike stated in the article, this lawsuit might bankrupt them. What is your point?

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The same constitutional rights that protect techdirt’s first amendment claim are also the same constitutional rights that can penalize sites like techdirt from running articles without backing up its information.

Techdirt did in fact back up its information, providing many citations including the RFCs standardizing email long before Ayyadurai’s system.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 RFCs

doesn’t want to reference the RFC

Certainly it would be hard for him to reference them without bringing himself into frivolous territory. My copy of RFC733 (format for ARPANET electronic mail) is dated 1977, which is somewhat prior to the plaintiff’s publication.

The problem is authentication. The authors have surely moved on from their institutions at the time of publication, and some may no longer be available at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: RFCs

Yeah, about that. I read the actual filing. I see a lot of people giving him metaphorical reacharounds, but I did a text search, and I do not see the letters RFC anywhere in that document.

Sorry; I’m not sure what you’re saying here. By “actual filing” do you mean Shiva’s actual filing? and by “giving him metaphorical reacharounds” you’re referring to Shiva? Or did you mean you read Mike’s response and are referring to Mike?

I’m pretty sure Mike’s legal response will include the RFCs, as they pretty much sink the claims in the original filing, with not much room for argument. But given the lawyer retained here, there has to be some longer-term game being played, and Mike’s lawyers will have to figure out what that is and counter THAT as well, or this will become a very long-term and expensive legal battle (even if it’s done pro bono, this is going to take a LOT of man hours to counter Thiel’s war chest — at the expense of the lawyers taking the case in a state that may not reimburse the winners).

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Personally, I don’t agree with techdirt’s assessment. The same constitutional rights that protect techdirt’s first amendment claim are also the same constitutional rights that can penalize sites like techdirt from running articles without backing up its information.

Far too often I see techdirt running articles that are first posted by other sites, quoting the same quotes that those other sites are quoting from.

I simply think that techdirt, if they cave in or lose, might be on its last legs because I don’t think they do any research except generate a few quotes from people involved with the subject matter they are posting about.

This is why I have policies set in place on my site that prevent registered members from posting messages without any sources or research.

…and you wrote those four paragraphs of text, and clicked the Submit button, and at no point during that time did the irony that you cited not one single example occur to you?

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“The same constitutional rights that protect techdirt’s first amendment claim are also the same constitutional rights that can penalize sites like techdirt from running articles without backing up its information.”

Therein lies the rub: Techdirt did back up its argument with factual information. Thoroughly. There is plenty of documentation to back up the site’s claims against Mr. Ayyadurai, which was linked to and acknowledged in the article which claims Mr. Ayyadurai did not invent email.

If Techdirt can be penalized for writing factual information in response to a false claim, what does that say about the First Amendment?

“Far too often I see techdirt running articles that are first posted by other sites, quoting the same quotes that those other sites are quoting from.”

…so what? That has no bearing on this case.

“I have policies set in place on my site that prevent registered members from posting messages without any sources or research.”

Go read the article that demolishes Mr. Ayyadurai’s claims that he invented email. If there is any bit of information that is neither sourced nor easily found via Google, you may want to contact Mr. Ayyadurai and help him with his case.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Far too often I see techdirt running articles that are first posted by other sites, quoting the same quotes that those other sites are quoting from.”

…and that’s a problem because…?

Techdirt has always set itself up as a blog that generates discussion and discourse among subjects that interest Mike and other authors. Despite the whining of various commenters, it has NEVER (as far as I’m aware) set itself up as a primary news source or venue for original investigative journalism. It does occasionally venture into those fields, but that’s not its primary remit. The primary focus has always been the community, not whether it’s first to write about something or whether the content itself is completely original.

Given that, why is your complaint any kind of a problem at all?

“I simply think that techdirt, if they cave in or lose, might be on its last legs because I don’t think they do any research except generate a few quotes from people involved with the subject matter they are posting about.”

Except, you know, that the article that they’re being sued about have been impeccably argued and researched, with nobody even attempting to contradict the supplied facts.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: counter suit

I’ve been wondering if this meritless lawsuit, if not quashed by anti-SLAPP law, could be held up as defamation by Shiva, as he is asserting something that’s false in the court of law with the intent to harm Mike. Shouldn’t be hard to prove, as he’s actually filed the documents, and both sides of this “argument” are well laid out already, as is his lawyer’s MO.

On a different topic, does Mike have somewhere to stay for free while attending court in MA? Seems like that’s one way we could definitely help out if he doesn’t already have a quiet and free place to stay with Internet access, and some reasonable transportation to/from the courthouse.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: counter suit

No. There’s something called litigation privilege. You can’t sue someone for defamation based on what they claimed in a court filing. (They could be convicted of perjury if they are knowingly making false claims, but that is very rare.)

I’m guessing that if Mike has to travel to MA for this it won’t be for a long time, unless it’s to meet his local lawyers.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Well now...

From his wiki page:

‘Randazza filed an Anti-SLAPP motion in the under the California Anti-SLAPP law, despite the case being in Florida. The motion was granted, since one of the plaintiffs was from California. It was successful, and the federal court awarded Novella a victory in the case. "As a prevailing defendant, Novella is entitled to recover his attorney’s fees and costs under the anti-SLAPP statute. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 425.16(c)(1). He may seek to recover his fees and costs by separate motion."

So it is possible to make use of a state’s anti-SLAPP law even if the case if filed in another state, so long as one of the parties is from the state with the law, which TD/Mike is.

Marc John Randazza (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Well now...

Someone call me?

By the way, the “Novella Trick” of using the Plaintiff’s home state anti-SLAPP statute is only one way of doing it.

You can also use dépeçage to invoke the defendant’s home state anti-SLAPP protections.

The courts in the 7th Circuit are very comfortable with that. The 1st has not yet applied it in the exact Novella / reverse Novella manner.

But … you bet your ass, any defense here should be looking at that pretty French word … dépeçage.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Well now...

It is times like this I wish I was a fly on the wall.

I can only imagine the Secret Society of First Amendment Badasses has legal pads with sketched out plans for making this case hurt enough that trying to use the law to silence people who disagree with you wouldn’t be tried again for a long time (or by someone who wants to keep their bar card).

Nice to see you Mr. Randazza. What I wouldn’t give to see a brief deftly shredding the claims & seeing demands for costs. $750,000 seems like a good number…

My_Name_Here says:

Re: Re: Well now...

The problem with your point here is that Techdirt didn’t just discuss the concept of if the facts are true or not, but also took some fairly solid swipes at the guys integrity and character.

With the Gawker lawsuit in hand and at least marginal proof that he did in fact create an early version of mail in his country, this guy might have enough ammo that anti-SLAPP may not be such a slam dunk. That the Techdirt posts are not just factual but seem to be intended to mock the person and discredit them in public… well, you can draw your own conclusions.

It’s not as clear cut as the other case.

Someone that beat a shakedown says:

Re: Re: Well now...

If it does indeed fall under California jurisdiction, and you can prove the suit is indeed meritless, then you should look into a motion for sanctions. I used CCP § 128.7 and CCP § 128.5 to beat a fraudulent lawsuit–I was a pro per individual against venture capitalists. When the plaintiffs dropped the suit, they insisted the terms prevented me from filing the motions I had written because their safe harbor had expired that day. Those CCPs have teeth.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Smithsonian

In furtherance of your post…

“The AUTODIN network, first operational in 1962, provided a message service between 1,350 terminals, handling 30 million messages per month, with an average message length of approximately 3,000 characters. Autodin was supported by 18 large computerized switches, and was connected to the United States General Services Administration Advanced Record System, which provided similar services to roughly 2,500 terminals.[23] By 1968, AUTODIN linked more than 300 sites in several countries.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Email#history

He’s maybe trying to play on words? He invented a program CALLED “email”, not the generic term “Email”?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Smithsonian

“Ayyadurai maintained that EMAIL was the first electronic mail system to integrate an easy-to-use user interface, a word processor, a relational database, and a modular inter-communications protocol “integrated together in one single and holistic platform to ensure high-reliability and user-friendliness network-wide.”

All that may be true…but that’s not email. I mean, I use pine and mail (unix) regularly – he may have very well invented the first “modern” email gui – but that doesn’t mean he invented email in a technical (and hopefully legal) sense.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Smithsonian

[use Pine and unix mail]
Yes. Pine post-dates Elm, which post-dates 1978.

Interestingly enough, I have tarballs of old V6 and V7 unix sources, which contain e-mail back in the late 1970s. Which is no surprise, if you consider that even as an undergrad at that time, I expected e-mail to be provided on pretty much anything calling itself a computer system.

I conclude that the plaintiff may be less than fully forthright in asserting a claim to have invented e-mail in late 1978.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Smithsonian

And as pointed out by Techdirt, RFC 733 – https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc733 – contains the details about the standards that email would eventually take on.

That document was published before Mr. Ayyadurai was ever even working at the school where he created his email program.

Therein lies the problem with Mr. Ayyadurai’s claim of fact: He may have written an email program, but he did not contribute to what would become the standards of email, many of which were already in place as part of the ARPANET messaging system well before he wrote his program.

If he were to win this lawsuit in a court of law (instead of by attrition), he would have overcome the best defense against defamation: the actual, factual truth.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is concerning..

Page 30 of the complaint: “Plaintiff demands trial by jury.”

Of course he does. The actual history of the development of email is long, technical and complex. Ayyadurai’s story is easy to digest and (if it were true) inspiring. Much of his success in pushing his fraud comes from his being a convincing showman. I’m seriously concerned with which way the jury could go.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This is concerning..

How many potential jurors would argue with the Smithsonian? Sure, he’s got a better chance with a jury than with a judge, but he still has virtually no chance of winning.

That said, jury trials have more variables, and so can be dragged on for much longer, even when the judge is fed up. And this can also result in judges making mistakes, which results in a retrial with jury, opening up MORE opportunities.

When your goal is to cause harm and not to win, this tactic makes sense. But it’s highly unlikely it will result in a win.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: This is concerning..

This makes me think about how many actual jurors (in this case) would know what an RFC actually is. Then, once they know, what the implications of an RFC would be?

Massachusetts has a tech establishment, but I doubt that anyone with any tech background would make it onto the jury due to the plaintiffs attorney disqualifying them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: This is concerning..

I’ve always hated how a ‘jury of your peers’ is in no way taken as an actual fact. I once thought it meant the defendant would at least get someone in the jury box that would/could understand the depth of the case. A trial about computers, one would think you’d get people who had some background in computers. Maybe not all PhDs in Electrical Engineering, but at least people who can turn a computer on.

Instead, what do we get? As my friend tends to put it, “Our juries are made up of people to lazy or stupid to get out of the job of jury duty. Sure, there are some people who want to be there to do their civic duty but they almost always get thrown out because they know something.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This is concerning..

One of the greatest moments of my civic life has been to swing a jury to the verdict of not guilty in municipal court, regarding a traffic violation case in which the defendant represented himself pro se and put his wife on the stand. We’re talking high comedy there. Defendant was an immigrant, who still had some faith in the USA. I feel a tinge of pride to know I kept his faith alive just a little longer. Ticket never should have been issued and state did a particularly poor job litigating. Police officer and witness were both not credible (at least in my eyes, and those of fellow jurors once I pointed out specific examples). Judge was very forgiving of defendant’s lack of decorum due to naivete of the procedures. This was the only time I’ve ever been selected, but don’t knock serving on a jury until you’ve tried it.

aerinai says:

With you all the way Mike!

I really hope that this gets knocked down on anti-SLAPP but I expect that bc of the entire Gawker fiasco, this will be forced to go to trial…. Best of luck Mike and team! You guys are on the right side of history and it will be a shame if a butt-hurt con artist* sinks this amazing ship.

* – please note this is a personal opinion of Shiva given his actions in shaking down a legitimate news organization, not a statement of fact… i do not assert that i know personally whether or not he is a con artist. I don’t want your litigious ass-hat of a lawyer to get any ideas…

383bigblock (profile) says:

Time to get rid of Revisionist Historians

I think most folks who follow Techdirt would be up for donating to the cause even if its just a few bucks. There is a lot at stake here given that one individual can use the courts to change history and ignore the facts. They say if you repeat someothing often enough and get enough others to do the same that we can change everyone’s reality. Bullshit, this has to end and this guy needs to be taken to the matt. Also, I think there is an opportunity for an anti-SLAPP suit to take back all of his false winnings from other suits. We’ll support you. put up a gofundme account.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Time to get rid of Revisionist Historians

opportunity for an anti-SLAPP suit

If there were such a thing, then it would have to be brought in a state where the law supports it. Most states have fairly crummy anti-SLAPP laws, with the most common deficiency being that they only apply to things involving the government. See, for some foundation, Eastern Railroad Presidents Ass’n v. Noerr Motor Freight, Inc., 365 U.S. 127 (20-Feb-1961). While it does not deal with an anti-SLAPP motion, it does give some foundation for the run-of-the-mill statute.

Unless you can show that the plaintiff is a government figure, your anti-SLAPP aspirations are probably doomed.

His aspirations to have invented e-mail, which I was personally using before his “invention”, well, that is a fact question which may have to go to trial. Not my case, I am not a lawyer in the state where venue appears to lie, and I cannot usefully discuss the parties’ respective litigation strategies.

If I were to have any views at all as to the merits of the case, they would probably lump the plaintiff’s claim in with claims for goodness for this "markdown" mark-up intended to replace HTML with something less familiar but at the same time less useful.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

The point I was trying to make is that website owners and administrators need to force themselves to adopt policies to prevent things like this. Posting articles with titles designed as click-bait, i.e., provocative headlines, then you deserve what you get.

I’m not saying I’d like to see techdirt go but that website administrators often set themselves up for lawsuits like this.

With my website and forum communities, I have developed site policies designed for every possible occurrence and allow for content to be removed if either myself or my forum staff decide that the content is inappropriate for my community. I have to say that content is usually caught pretty quickly before it causes any damage.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So, I’m confused. Are you saying that your comment the other day,

HRD Software, nothing but a company full of idiots.

should have been removed? Or did I miss the part where you provided peer-reviewed original research that backed it up? Something that would have satisfied "the community", at any rate.

It doesn’t seem to me like it’s much different at all from what Techdirt has written about this issue, and they’ve provided a ton of supplemental links with background information to go along with it.

If you want to take the approach that puts "avoid being sued" above other considerations then that’s perfectly fine. But if Techdirt wants to emphasize the argument that "this is perfectly legitimate criticism and even if we do get sued that doesn’t make us wrong" that’s also fine. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that their approach is vital to all of us, and we should be lucky they take it.

Calling someone a liar when they’re lying, especially when you can and do show why you say they’re lying, isn’t something that we should be trying to shy away from.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Posting articles with titles designed as click-bait, i.e., provocative headlines, then you deserve what you get.

AYFKM?

Are you seriously suggesting that this is Masnick’s fault because his headlines weren’t weak and noncommital enough? That if you get frivolously sued by a litigious douchebag, it’s your own fault, because you shouldn’t have criticized a litigious douchebag for being a litigious douchebag?

The First Amendment does not have an exception for controversial or offensive speech. If it did, there would be no point in even having a First Amendment; nobody needs a law protecting uncontroversial and inoffensive speech.

Masnick didn’t break any laws. Somebody with a lot of money is taking advantage of a failure condition in our legal system in an attempt to silence him for legitimate criticism. Quit blaming the victim.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So, what you’re saying is that people need to work tirelessly not to accidentally offend someone, lest they cause a thin-skinned liar to be called such and sue you? Then you think that the fault has to lie with the website owner not being thorough enough, and not the thin-skinned fraudster or the system that allows him to potentially be able to shut people down for telling the truth about him and his attempted scam?

I respectfully disagree.

Doug says:

Re: Re:

KT: “…I have developed site policies designed for every possible occurrence…”.

You realize your credibility plummets after spouting this kind of self-aggrandizing back-patting, right? (I meant that intentional redundant redundancy…) More to the point, claiming you are some kind of expert in forum management doesn’t strengthen your weak arguments. It makes them even weaker, because your only claim to a legitimate argument is your own claim of being an authority.

Your victim-blaming is shameful on two levels. One, the victim in this case didn’t even do anything to, in your words, “deserve what [they got]”. To suggest that is just you trying to make yourself better in comparison to a strawman you’re creating. Second, even if you think they did make a mistake, why does it then follow that they deserve to be sued out of existence.

We don’t live in a world where it is a good idea to leave your wallet sitting on a park bench somewhere. If you do, chances are good it will be stolen. It’s predictable, and easily preventable, but does the person who does that deserve to have the wallet stolen. No. Period.

Your attitude suggests you feel that people should be punished for not living up to some threshold of moral or intellectual achievement. That is some dangerous thinking, man.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

There is some irony to be found on those who are taking pot shots are doing so anonymously, as is recognized by the 1st Amend. as being important.

Of course they won’t say who they are, because many of them have a personal axe to grind & are giddy at the idea of bad befalling TechDirt and who gives a fuck if establishes a shitty legal tactic that will be used more. They won’t see it as a problem until someone uses the tactic on them, then they will be screaming how unfair it is & trying to understand why people are pointing and laughing saying they were asking for it.

This is a meritless case, brought to financially harm TechDirt. The plaintiff is a conman, who has been running this con for years. Dare to question the story, and you are a racist in the backpocket of the military industrial complex. He has a lawyer who worked on a strategy of finding enough people to complain to bankrupt a media outlet. (We could debate Gawker being media, but thats not the point). Now they move onto TechDirt & the real reason behind the case might be mentioning someone bankrolling this type of lawfare was gay in print again, its all it took the first time.

If you can help, please help. Make a stand today, even if you don’t always agree with what TechDirt has to say. If you won’t stand up for the rights of those you disagree with, don’t be shocked when no one comes to help you.

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There is some irony to be found on those who are taking pot shots are doing so anonymously, as is recognized by the 1st Amend. as being important.

I would be surprised if many of them didn’t turn out to be Ayyadurai, his legal team, or people otherwise employed (marketing, SEO, etc) by Ayyadurai and/or any backers he may have.

Tin Samuel says:

Fucking people...

Just seems like an absolutely retarded thing to sue someone over. How is an opinion piece that sights evidence of a claim that someone did or did not invent email going to affect his standing or reputation? Are you not entitled to an opinion? Is his claim so weak that he has to resort to the legal system, rather than posting a rebuttal? People are damned idiots…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Fucking people...

“How is an opinion piece that sights evidence of a claim that someone did or did not invent email going to affect his standing or reputation?”

From what I can see, the guy’s failed at everything else so it’s the false claim of inventing email that he’s basing his entire legacy on. He regularly points to Google searches as “proof” of his claim (the main results of which are his own astroturf sites), but a popular and often cited source like Techdirt will naturally also come up in those searches. A well-reasoned, well-cited rundown of exactly why he’s a fraud will damage the reputation he’s tried building.

Mike’s refused to follow other sources in censoring or removing pages that expose this liar, so he’s been left with no recourse than to try and damage him financially with bogus lawsuits.

“Is his claim so weak that he has to resort to the legal system, rather than posting a rebuttal?”

Yes.

Doug says:

Re: Re: Fucking people...

I’ve been wondering what Ayyadurai gets out of this whole fight, aside from bragging rights? I used to presume he was some minor tech drone with nothing else to his name than bragging rights over email. But he seems to be an educated person with many other ways to succeed in life. How did he end up becoming a person with nothing better to do than fight over bragging rights?

Does this create economic opportunity for him, as a consultant or web developer or what?

shanen (profile) says:

A just cause and a couple of bucks will buy a cup of coffee

I, too, believe that your cause is just and that you should prevail. If I were filthy rich, I’d even toss you some money on the principle, but… I’m not so rich, so I have to think about what I do with my money.

Hey, here’s a funny idea. Why don’t you TELL US how you want to use our money?

More concretely, why don’t you follow this article with links to some “solution projects”, probably projects to fight this stupid lawsuit in this case. The proposals should stand on their own merits and persuade is to donate enough money to fund the budget.

After the project has been completed, hopefully in accord with the schedule and budget included in the proposal, then you can tell us how it went, and maybe even ask us to donate to some more projects, too.

Actually, this is a more general model that could be used for OSS development or broader journalistic or even social purposes.

I really do wish you well, but right now I’d rather have the cup of coffee, and your just cause isn’t fungible.

Details available upon request, even though I think they have become intuitively obvious to the most casual observer. Most obviously, the old business models of journalism are dead[, Jim].

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: A just cause and a couple of bucks will buy a cup of coffee

He HAS told us how he wants to use the money: To defend against this vexatious lawsuit. That takes money. What part of this was unclear?

The only relevant “solution project” would be to properly document the history of the development of email. This has already been done. Check the citations in the articles he’s being sued over.

shanen (profile) says:

Re: Re: A just cause and a couple of bucks will buy a cup of coffee

Typo in original: “is to” should have been “us to”.

Obviously you are not a lawyer, so I congratulate you on that. In ANY legal action, there are MANY possible approaches. Why don’t you want to help pick the best one, especially if some of YOUR money was going to be involved?

Think of it differently, in terms of the wisdom of crowds. If they present three different defense strategies, just seeing which one gets the most sincere support is useful. You can even regard the willingness to donate as a metric of sincerity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: A just cause and a couple of bucks will buy a cup of coffee

What sensible defendant to litigation would want to air their legal strategy in public or subject it to the “wisdom” of the crowds? Seems rather silly what you are suggesting.

However, crowd sourced defense was quite successfully performed by PJ and Groklaw, when SCO and David Boies were attacking Linux. Horse of a different color though.

shanen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 A just cause and a couple of bucks will buy a cup of coffee

Very constructive thinking. NOT. Seems typical these days.

What are your motivations? Perhaps you voted for the Donald, who promises to make it easier to sue websites out of existence? (Speaking more precisely, I have no personal interest in you, but kind of a vague curiosity why civil dialog dies. If you’re a paid troll for Trump, that certainly makes sense.)

So how about the idea of practicing the legal strategies by describing them in sufficient detail so Internet geniuses like you can shoot them to pieces?

Wasting keystrokes. No sincerity detected.

Oh well. Just speaking for myself. Not merely saying why I am unlikely to donate to TechDirt’s defense, but trying to offer a constructive suggestion to justify donating some of my limited money. If you are also so rich (to go with your brilliance) that you don’t care about the money, then congratulations again.

If not, I’m wagering that I’d be amused by your best attempt to be constructive.

shanen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 A just cause and a couple of bucks will buy a cup of coffee

NOT a constructive comment.

Obviously you don’t understand where I agree and disagree with you. Not going to waste the keystrokes on it.

So exactly how much money are you prepared to put where your fat fingers are?

Amusingly enough, I actually put a $100 on Sanders before the NY primary, though I regarded Hillary as good enough. Not good enough to get any of my limited money. Ditto TechDirt as things stand. With valuable “supporters” like you, I’m sure they’ll be just fine and dandy.

Anonymous Coward says:

I would have sent you email from my 7094, but

it doesn’t support https. However, it does email just fine.

It’s time to shut this shameless jerk and his ambulance-chasing lawyers down, once and for all. I would surmise that some substantial percentage of billionaires from the computer industry should be happy to chip in to help get this guy stopped.

I’ve emailed on every time-sharing system I’ve used since 1965, when this jerk was 1 year old, and on every networked system since 1971. Since this jerk went to MIT, he willfully ignores CTSS, ITS, Multics, Unix, Tops-10, Tops-20, even a time-shared PDP-8, for god’s sake.

Then there’s a large number of military messaging systems that were in heavy use — including in the Vietnam era.

Then there’s the pirate copies of Unix that were running on East German copies of PDP-11’s, and the pirate copies of IBM software that were running on Russian copies of IBM 360’s. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of these machines made it to Shiva Ayyadurai’s birth country of India, where they might even have processed his own birth certificate or his family’s other documents.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Email

caroline gerardo (user link) says:

inventor of post its

When Shiva registered his email patent in 1982 I already worked on an inter-office email system at Great Western Bank for years. We didn’t call it email, it was DOS based message sending. This is not his first claim to fame lawsuit. Anyone can sue, I hope you counter- sue him for damages. My advice: do not call your attorney, limit his (I say male because…) budget.

Anonymous Coward says:

Fight it

Oh boy. That case filing makes me really angry.

Next time my fingers hit the keyboard to write a quick email, I’ll be saying FUCK YOU to Shiva Ayyadurai… and saying thank you to those who authored the RFCs that actually created email.

Mike, expose Shiva as the FRAUD he is. Take all of that evidence with you. Don’t let this disgusting FAKE bottom feeder get another cent from false claims. And once the court is done humiliating him and proving him to be the LIAR he is, recoup your costs from him.

Good luck Mike. May justice be with you.

burnindaylight (profile) says:

Wow.. Most redic crap I've seen in a while.

OK this is just crap first and foremost, and I’ve written a few e-mail programs myself a few years later.

IANAL but can someone here tell me off the top of their head where the burden of proof resides as to whether there is any substance to this to begin with? (IE as to whether there is even a claim?) Is it up to the plaintiff to prove he invented email or the defendant to prove he didn’t? I’d assume it’s the former. (Yes, I know there’s google but that’s 1/2 hr for me and 10 seconds for someone who does this for a living so I’d appreciate a quick answer 🙂

I’ll be supporting you however is possible, but I’m an outsourced IT worker so IDK at the moment!

This is nuts though.. The libel claim is based on you’ve knowingly posted lies.. and I don’t know.. I don’t see any evidence of that – especially when I see a load of crap. I “invented” some e-mail programs!

This is the first thing that’s got me pissed off enough to register and if this (redacted) out-guns you I’ll be pissed. I really hope someone puts up defense pro-bono.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Wow.. Most redic crap I've seen in a while.

In the United States, the burden of proof in a defamation case falls upon the plaintiff. They must prove that the party being sued made factual statements that were knowingly false and did so with reckless disregard as to whether those statements were false.

For Mr. Ayyadurai to win his case, he must prove that Techdirt made knowingly false statements of fact when the site printed articles that rebutted his claims of having invented email, and that the site did so with reckless disregard to whether those statements were true. His main hurdle in such a case will be the best defense against a charge of defamation: the factual truth. The history of the programs and standards that would become email as we know it today is well-documented. A lot of the work on those programs and standards predates Mr. Ayyadurai’s work by several years, and his work had no real effect on their development.

burnindaylight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Wow.. Most redic crap I've seen in a while.

Thanks for your quick & informative reply – always appreciated from somebody who knows & can just tell you as opposed to me searching and figuring it out. There’s no chance that’s gonna happen IMHO. (In my professional opinion? I’ve probably written more e-mail programs/interfaces than this guy LOL)

Apparently I’ve got to get used to how threads/replies work here because my inbox just got hit and there’s nothing in the threads 🙁

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Wow.. Most redic crap I've seen in a while.

The problem is, it’s often not a case of winning or losing the legal argument.

The cost of trying to win the argument can be greater than you can afford, so often cases can be decided purely on the amount of funds available to either party. Sorta "whoever blinks first loses" where ‘blinks’ is "runs out of money".

It could cost several million dollars to defend such a suit.

That is one of the purposes behind various anti-SLAPP statuettes passed in some states, where they recognise that the mere act of defending oneself against a frivolous lawsuit can send you bankrupt before a judgement before a court verdict is even reached.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Wow.. Most redic crap I've seen in a while.

Yeah, lawsuits like this are a negative-sum game: Both sides will keep losing as long as the game is played, and the game ends when one side figures it has lost more than it can afford to lose.

In this case, it comes down to Mr. Ayyadurai’s “war chest” versus Techdirt’s “war chest”, and Ayyadurai appears to have the bigger bankroll to work with. (I have to wonder if possible vampire Peter Thiel is funding this suit.) He can afford to lose more, especially if he believes he can come out of this game with as few losses as possible – or even a net gain.

That is why we need stronger anti-SLAPP laws (in addition to a federal one): To stop a negative-sum game based on a faulty premise – in this case, that Techdirt printed lies about Mr. Ayyadurai when it said he did not invent email – before all the players get in too deep.

John (profile) says:

The bs lawsuit

I have just shared your post and the Link to the Fortune article. I am no celebrity but I will force this news into my circles endlessly.

If there is anything I can do–and encourage my small circle and their weirdly large concentric circles to do–please reach out to me and let me know. I am not wealthy but every little bit counts.
John Anker
Jcanker@hotmail.com

Anonymous Coward says:

Do Mike / techdirt have a significant presence of business in Massachusetts? (and no, running a website that can be viewed in thay state, or talks about someone from that state doesn’t count) IANAL, but I’ve heard that a lawsuit should be filed in the location the defendent’s supposed actions took place, which seems like that would be California. It’s irrelevent if the plaintiff Shitstain Ayyadurai lives in MA, it’s improper venue and not within MA’s jurisdiction.

My_Name_Here says:

Alas

My post will be moderated for a few days, but that’s okay, it needs to be said anyway.

The lawsuit is baseless in many ways because the guy did not invent email, he invented AN email. It may have been new to him, it may have been new to his country, but it wasn’t new in the world. There in lies the problem: he’s not wrong when he says he invented email, if you speak generally and without qualifying that point.

Pointing out that he is not the inventor of email (the whole world concept) is totally acceptable and cannot be argued. It is true and can be backed up with plenty of examples well back in time line of computing.

However, making fun of him, calling him names, and making comments about his character and such may cross the line. The guy actually has a pretty reasonable case here. If he has deep enough pockets or a lawyer (lawyers) willing to spend the time papering things over, this could go for years and literally cost millions. Without a doubt, the survival of Techdirt is at stake, at least in some way until EFF decides to provide pro-bono legal help.

It brings a more solid question for discussion, that of sites being responsible for the content they publish, and considering the repercussions of nastygram style blogs that may cross the line somewhere. It’s not something that Techdirt has ever wanted to face up to but it is something that needs to be considered. Some of the recent posts by people like Karl are starting to push on nasty insults and insinuations of things that are not easily proven. A big company with deep pockets (or a Peter Thiel) could empty this place out faster than a stink bomb in a high school bathroom.

Babs says:

Re: Alas

“However, making fun of him, calling him names, and making comments about his character and such may cross the line.”
None of those things is illegal. Trying to avoid being sued by wealthy snowflakes is no basis for a quality website.