Case Dismissed: Judge Throws Out Shiva Ayyadurai's Defamation Lawsuit Against Techdirt

from the the-first-amendment-means-something dept

As you likely know, for most of the past nine months, we’ve been dealing with a defamation lawsuit from Shiva Ayyadurai, who claims to have invented email. This is a claim that we have disputed at great length and in great detail, showing how email existed long before Ayyadurai wrote his program. We pointed to the well documented public history of email, and how basically all of the components that Ayyadurai now claims credit for preceded his own work. We discussed how his arguments were, at best, misleading, such as arguing that the copyright on his program proved that he was the “inventor of email” — since patents and copyrights are very different, and just because Microsoft has a copyright on “Windows” it does not mean it “invented” the concept of a windowed graphical user interface (because it did not). As I have said, a case like this is extremely draining — especially on an emotional level — and can create massive chilling effects on free speech.

A few hours ago, the judge ruled and we prevailed. The case has been dismissed and the judge rejected Ayyadurai’s request to file an amended complaint. We are certainly pleased with the decision and his analysis, which notes over and over again that everything that we stated was clearly protected speech, and the defamation (and other claims) had no merit. This is, clearly, a big win for the First Amendment and free speech — especially the right to call out and criticize a public figure such as Shiva Ayyadurai, who is now running for the US Senate in Massachusetts. We’re further happy to see the judge affirm that CDA Section 230 protects us from being sued over comments made on the blog, which cannot be attributed to us under the law. We talk a lot about the importance of CDA 230, in part because it protects sites like our own from these kinds of lawsuits. This is just one more reason we’re so concerned about the latest attempt in Congress to undermine CDA 230. While those supporting the bill may claim that it only targets sites like Backpage, such changes to CDA 230 could have a much bigger impact on smaller sites like our own.

We are disappointed, however, that the judge denied our separate motion to strike under California’s anti-SLAPP law. For years, we’ve discussed the importance of strong anti-SLAPP laws that protect individuals and sites from going through costly legal battles. Good anti-SLAPP laws do two things: they stop lawsuits early and they make those who bring SLAPP suits — that is, lawsuits clearly designed to silence protected speech — pay the legal fees. The question in this case was whether or not California’s anti-SLAPP law should apply to a case brought in Massachusetts. While other courts have said that the state of the speaker should determine which anti-SLAPP laws are applied (even in other states’ courts), it was an issue that had not yet been ruled upon in the First Circuit where this case was heard. While we’re happy with the overall dismissal and the strong language used to support our free speech rights, we’re nevertheless disappointed that the judge chose not to apply California’s anti-SLAPP law here.

However, that just reinforces the argument we’ve been making for years: we need stronger anti-SLAPP laws in many states (including Massachusetts) and, even more importantly, we need a strong federal anti-SLAPP law to protect against frivolous lawsuits designed to silence protected speech. The results of this case have only strengthened our resolve to do everything possible to continue to fight hard for protecting freedom of expression and to push for stronger anti-SLAPP laws that make free speech possible, and not burdensome and expensive.

You have not heard the last from us on the issue of the First Amendment, free speech and anti-SLAPP laws — or how some try to use the court system to silence and bully critics. Step one of this is our new Free Speech edition, which we announced just a few weeks ago, where we are focusing more of our reporting efforts on issues related to free speech and anti-SLAPP. We intend to do a lot more as well. For years, we’ve talked about these issues from the position of an observer, and now we can talk about them from the perspective of someone who has gone through this process as well.

Of course, if you have to face something like this, it helps to have great lawyers–and we’re immensely grateful for the incredible hard-work of Rob Bertsche, Jeff Pyle and Thomas Sutcliffe along with the rest of the team at their firm, Prince Lobel Tye LLP.

Finally, I can’t even begin to thank everyone who has supported us over the past nine months — whether by kind words (you don’t know how much that helped!) or through our survival fund at ISupportJournalism.com or by becoming a Techdirt Insider. We just passed Techdirt’s 20th anniversary and while it’s one thing to think that people like and support you, it’s another thing altogether to see how people come out to support you when it matters most. And we were overwhelmed by the support we received over the past nine months, and the kind words and help that many, many people offered. It was beyond heartening, and, once again, it reinforces our resolve to continue to speak up for free speech and to do what we can to protect others’ ability to speak out as well.

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Comments on “Case Dismissed: Judge Throws Out Shiva Ayyadurai's Defamation Lawsuit Against Techdirt”

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259 Comments
Eric FJ says:

Dumb question - how did he get the copyrights?

This may be a dumb question, but when I worked for a University in the 1980s, they claimed copyright for all my work (work made for hire, etc.).

In addition, as a comp sci student at the time, they claimed copyright for anything created that used their computers. I remember arguing over this (they did not claim ownership for paintings made by art students, etc. even though the art students used university facilities).

Anyway, if this case is appealed, a check on the policy of the University at the time may make difficulties for the the copyright registration.

Sorry if I am repeating things, and congratulations!

David (profile) says:

Re: Dumb question - how did he get the copyrights?

He copyrighted his EMAIL code. Which is completely legit thing to do. However, he conflates getting the copyright with proof that his code is the first.

We can each write an email program today and they are all copyrighted. Thus his claim is BS and clearly from someone of a lower caste (snort).

He doesn’t understand how copyright works, much like he doesn’t understand that the RFC were the basis of the internet and email protocols came from them. In fact, if you wanted to be funny, you could write anything down labeling them all as EMAIL and be perfectly valid even if they are pictures of dicks. Or Shiva.

David says:

Re: Re: Dumb question - how did he get the copyrights?

Well yeah, it’s like Microsoft copyrighting Windows and then suing Algeria (or whoever) because they claim the Phoenicians (or whoever) invented glass.

And then somebody from China or India claims they had it 2000 years earlier anyway. Apropos India.

Probably Email was mentioned in the Upanishads.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re: Dumb question - how did he get the copyrights?

Actually part of his story is that the guy (who still supports Shiva’s position) who was his mentor, advisor or something, encouraged him to file for patents and all in the first place.

Yeah it depends on the institution. Lots of public sector IP and even companies spring right out of uni woodwork.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Excellent news!

Remember the general rule of thumb – he who slings the most mud, wins.

Might I suggest another rule of thumb: Republicans don’t win Senate seats in Massachusetts. The last time one did, it was because a long-serving senator died of a brain tumor, the Democratic nominee to replace him ran a truly terrible campaign, and it was at the outset of a year that would prove to be massively Republican-leaning — and even then, the Republican victor in question won by less than five points and was voted out in less than two years. (The last time before that that a Republican won one of Massachusetts’ Senate seats was 1972.)

Even assuming Ayyadurai wins the primary, he’ll be going up against one of the most popular Democratic senators in the country, in one of the most Democratic states in the country, in a midterm election where the President is an extremely unpopular Republican.

There is a chance he’ll win — never say never, 2016 proved that — but I’m not going to call it a good chance.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Excellent news!

Scott Brown didn’t so much “win” the seat as he was just a vaguely plausible-looking newbie candidate without much background to define him, and who was in the right place at the right time. That race was Democrat Martha Coakley’s to lose and lose it she did, as she assumed it was hers by right of fiat (it had been Ted Kennedy’s seat) and her political stance swings center-right (for a Democrat). Almost anyone who ran against her would have won.

Elizabeth Warren destroyed Brown a couple of years later with her earnest progressive stance. People all over the country adore her, but esp. Massachusetts voters. Republicans try hard to insult her mostly they just call her “Pocahontas” and try to get her to shut up.

Then, not learning a thing, the Democrats ran Coakley for governor and she ran the same stiff, fake-smile race as before, and lost to Mitt Romney of all people, who would not have won if she’d been just a slightly better candidate.

When HRC ran, as I watched, I kept thinking, “OMG! Less Coakley!!! More Warren!!!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Excellent news!

That’s way too closer of a chance than he deserves. Don’t forget about what people said about Hillary vs Trump’s possible outcomes early on.

“He’ll never be nominated”

And then he was.

“He’ll never be president”

And then the world weeped.

The moment you underestimate the power of a sociopathic imbecile to get himself elected is the moment you open the door for allowing sociopathic imbeciles to be elected.

Alphonse Tomato (profile) says:

Re: Re: Excellent news!

A good chance of winning?

Nah, the pool of people who would be his supporters against Elizabeth Warren is not going to be favorable to candidates who (if they aren’t white) complain about racism. Nor does Shiva sound like somebody anyone would want to have a beer with, he sounds like a spoiled brat with a sense of entitlement. And the saner ones are going to be saying “what does that have to do with cutting taxes and getting the government off my back?”, unless Boston gets clobbered by a Force 5 hurricane (in which case, they’ll be standing in line for govt aid).

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Excellent news!

Here’s a fun little fact: He was an invited speaker at the so-called “Free Speech Rally” here in Boston.
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/08/14/senate-candidate-plans-address-free-speech-rally-common/CzFnJ4c4u1wOjojtdeLUzM/story.html

You may wonder, “why would the organizers of a free speech rally invite someone who is so clearly anti-free speech?” Well, because it was pretty transparently using “free speech” as a cover for another alt-right rally, and Ayyadurai is quickly becoming the alt-right’s token minority representative.
http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/article/2017/07/09/shiva-ayyadurai/

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Excellent news!

A banner beaming “Shiva 4 Senate: Be the Light,” complete with a torch, is plastered on the side of his vehicle. Neatly dressed in a white shirt with French cuffs and a gold-colored tie, Ayyadurai presses play, flings open the doors, and—to an audience consisting of myself and his three assistants—pumps his fist to the music in the otherwise quiet lot.

Oh yeah, that is exactly the sort of person who should be in government… I’m not sure if I should be laughing or feeling sad that he was apparently so eager to give a good ‘first impression’ that he went through that song and (almost literal) dance for four people.

At the front of the room, the de facto emcee asks Ayyadurai how to pronounce his last name. “Like, ‘I adore you,’” he replies. Then the former MIT lecturer begins his stump speech like a classroom lecture. “I want to start off by asking everyone, how many of us really want to beat Elizabeth Warren?” Every hand in the room shoots up. “Can we use weapons?” shouts the woman sitting next to me, both arms high above her head. “You said beat her.

Ayyadurai doesn’t flinch—probably because his candidacy is rooted in the same right-wing bluster that’s made Breitbart News a household name and catapulted Donald Trump to the White House.

And that is just all sorts of disturbing. If that’s the kind of person he’s trying to garner support from I dearly hope they are in the minority in that state.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Excellent news!

Yeah, this quote is pretty revealing too:

> The Establishment creates and funds groups like Antifa, KKK and Black Lives Matter with the aim of dividing everyday poor black and white Americans.

I’m not sure which is more laughable, the false equivalency of comparing Antifa or BLM with the KKK, or the notion that he thinks they’re created and funded by the people in power.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

So ego wins and he doubles down after all. I’d say I was surprised, but that would be a total lie.

Yeah, just read the entire ruling, and he’s going to have a fun time with that appeal given how totally the judge dismantled him here.

As noted in the ruling, ‘On a motion to dismiss, the Court “must assume the truth of all well-plead[ed] facts and give plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom.”

That even under that standard it was still tossed at this stage says a lot, with the ruling basically going through all the claims and dismissing them as based upon protected speech or merely defamation claims under another name(with regards to claims two and three).

As for why the judge refused to allow him to amend the complaint, I imagine that might impact any appeal he might make, as it doesn’t look very good for him and/or his lawyer.

A request for leave to amend requires a plaintiff to “set forth the factual and legal predicate for the remedy sought.” Silverstrand Investments, 707 F.3d at 107. Here, however, plaintiff’s opposition fails to set forth a single additional fact that would be included in the amended complaint. Accordingly, plaintiff has failed to “do[] the necessary leg work,” id., and the request to amend will be denied.

trollificus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“…it doesn’t look very good for him and/or his lawyer.”

Well, it looks like billable hours to his legal firm, so, no problem there.

Anyway, congrats on the win. Just wondering how this never got to the part where it became relevant to the case that he IS delusional, IS a liar and IS a race-baiting reprobate. That should all be put on public record somewhere, I think.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Statement reads as follows:

“False speech is not protected by the Constitution, and TechDirt’s false and malicious speech about Dr. Ayyadurai should receive no legal protection,” Ayyadurai said in the statement. “False speech does harm to readers, who are misled by it; it does harm to journalism, which is weakened by it; and it does harm to the subjects of the speech, whose reputations and careers are damaged by it.”

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So says Ayyadurai’s lawyer, which he is paid to do. Nothing says he believes what his case said.

If lawyers needed to believe what their clients tell them, no one would ever get a defense lawyer, guilty or not.

This being a civil case, the lawyer only needs to know that he won’t be instantly laughed out of court (which is close to what happened here) because there might be something there, and can the client pay. The lawyer does not need to believe in the case.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“False speech does harm to readers, who are misled by it; it does harm to journalism, which is weakened by it; and it does harm to the subjects of the speech, whose reputations and careers are damaged by it.”

So says every scam artists when their scam is revealed, because it damages their ability to continue the scam.

JMT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"False speech is not protected by the Constitution…"

Actually in some cases it is, as any competent lawyer should know.

"False speech does harm to readers, who are misled by it; it does harm to journalism, which is weakened by it; and it does harm to the subjects of the speech, whose reputations and careers are damaged by it."

On this I think we all totally agree. I think we can probably also agree that knowingly making false accusations can also do a lot of damage to journalism, reputations and careers, and anybody who makes them should be firmly slapped down both legally and financially.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

UPDATE 6:15pm ET: Charles Harder, Ayyadurai’s attorney, e-mailed Ars a statement on behalf of his client, saying that Ayyadurai would be appealing the ruling.

It takes mere dishonesty to claim other peoples’ inventions as your own. But it takes a special blend of stupidity, self-denial, dishonesty and arrogance to do it for an invention whose real development is well documented, AND to keep doing it for years after your lies are publicly shot down.

That special blend makes for lucrative clients for dishonest attorneys to loot.

Anonymous Coward says:

Oh, rats! -- Er, I mean, congRATSulation!

So what was with all the drama for last months? — And other sour-grapes-ing.

With your promises last week to allow free speech here, we’re all set for some exercise, huh?

And yes, this is ME, the person who’s had thousand of comments here “hidden”, not to stint you on the win. Enjoy!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Oh, rats! -- Er, I mean, congRATSulation!

>> “I do not believe that you are you.”

Well, I’d try to convince you, but I’m certain that you are not YOU.

What do you want of me beyond RATS? — I’m devastated. I’m over-wrought. I’m a wreck. I am drenched with, er, anti-schadenfreude. — Actually I didn’t invest much hope, such cases rarely go far and I’ve no actual stake, just enjoyed while could.

I do bet that Masnick will be more careful in future with his insulting, though, eh? It’s even likely this bit of adversity will actually improve him! — Yes, that’s the line I’ll take: Hey, Masnick, remember how you felt when looked like would be silenced? — Thanks, AC, for prompting me to work through this to a useful tack.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Better late than never

While it certainly would have been nice to see this article a couple months back it’s still a welcome sight to see now, easily the best news this week.

Now the only question is whether Shiva will have the good sense to slink away after being slapped down, or if his ego will cause him to double-down and try to appeal. Hopefully it’ll be the first.

stderric (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

People were assholes long before Ayyadurai was born.

Sort of: people have behaved in an asshole-like manner for a long time, but it wasn’t until 1980 that Siva came along and developed the feature-set that, when taken as a whole, define a true asshole as one would be recognized in modern society. Furthermore, he copyrighted his bulleted list of these specific, personally assembled and implemented features under the title ASS-HOLE.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Shiva Will Appeal

Uh, guys? I’m glad the case has been dismissed but per Ars Technica, TD isn’t out of the woods yet: Shiva plans to appeal. https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/09/judge-dismisses-libel-lawsuit-filed-by-self-proclaimed-e-mail-inventor/

It’s a win for the First Amendment now but this is not the last we’ve heard of it. Good luck, Techdirt.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Shiva Will Appeal

He can appeal; that doesn’t mean he stands a chance in hell of winning, though. The judge in this case seems to have dismantled both his original suit and the attempt to amend it, so an appeal at this point seems like an attempt to further drain Techdirt of resources and win by attrition.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Shiva Will Appeal

Is there any chance an appeals court could uphold the dismissal yet also reverse the trial court judges denial of the California SLAPP issue

Sure. The normal vehicle would be that Techdirt files a cross-appeal, raising the issue of whether the Cali anti-SLAPP statute should apply. While it might not, initially, have been worth an appeal to decide the issue, you are already in for an appeal since Mr Email has filed his notice. Someone will have to write a brief anyway.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Shiva Will Appeal

The judge in this case seems to have dismantled both his original suit and the attempt to amend it, so an appeal at this point seems like an attempt to further drain Techdirt of resources and win by attrition.

He was never winning on the merits, so it’s hardly a surprise that he would continue with the attrition tactic. One would hope that any judge that might be presented with his appeal will take a good look at this current ruling and see his attempt to silence/punish TD as just that, and act accordingly.

Kronomex (profile) says:

Re: Shiva Will Appeal

Of course he will appeal, his hot air balloon ego has suffered a puncture and he must do something to reinflate it. All this is going to do is to prove, yet agin, he’s as big an grudge bearing idiot as everyone thought.

This is from his senate web site (https://shiva4senate.com/) for 06 September 2017 –

“Groton Republican Town Committee Meeting

This month marks the 35th anniversary of the invention of email by Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai. To commemorate this, following the event and separate from the event, he will be offering signed copies of his book, The Future of Email, for those who want to help support his campaign on the campaign bus.”

Strange there’s no mention of his court case being thrown out…must have forgotten to mention it. Can’t have inconvenient facts and truth cluttering up a confection of fantasy.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Don’t believe so, I think all that means is that the judge ruled on the current case presented and dismissed it, rather than allowing Shiva’s team to amend the complaint and requiring the judge to decide whether or not the amended complaint was also justified in being dismissed.

Funny thing though, reading the ruling it sounds like the ‘amended’ complaint was completely lacking in substance, making it basically the same filing, just slightly changed, such that dismissing this one is dismissing both.

Toom1275 (profile) says:

Pages 19-21 seem to contain, in my not-a-lawyer opinion, the most important part of the judge’s reasoning:

"The articles at issue provide all of the relevant fact on which defendants rely in reaching the conclusion that plaintiff’s claim is false."

[…]

"Not every article at issue fully explains the factual basis for the conclusion that plaintiff’s claim is false. However, the articles that do not provide a full explanation refer to, and often provide hyperlinks to, the articles that do. Furthermore, as plaintiff has recognized, the articles should be viewed together and are each relevant context for the others."

[…]

"By providing the full factual basis for his opinion, the articles cannot reasonably be interpreted to suggest that the author had information about plaintiff’s claim that was not accessible to others."

[…]

"Furthermore, and significantly, it appears that the core underlying facts are not disputed."

[…]

"In addition, plaintiff has not challenged the accuracy of the factual statements relied upon in reaching the conclusion that his claim is false.

[…]

"Thus, while the complaint challenges the conclusions drawn from the available facts, it does not challenge the underlying facts themselves."

[…]

"In short, the articles disclose the non-defamatory facts on which they rely; make clear that the conclusions drawn from those facts are simply an interpretation of them; and do not rely on other, undisclosed and potentially defamatory facts that are not available to others."

[…]

"Furthermore, by providing hyperlinks to the relevant information, the articles enable readers to review the underlying information for themselves and reach their own conclusions. See Riley, 292 F.3d at 289. Accordingly, the statements are not actionable. [bold added]

[end of quotations]

That part, I think, establishes that nothing published on Techdirt was defamatory in the first place.

And even if Ayyadurai were to try to prop up his proposed appeal by shoveling in lies about the factual sources Mike’s articles were based on, it would do nothing to change the situation. This ruling clearly reiterates that merely providing one’s conclusions based off of disclosed facts regardless of how much hyperbolic language is used to do so, is not defamation.
Ayyadurai would have to attempt to argue that not only are a few decades of factual record from multiple independent and unbiased sources false, but he would also have to prove that Mike knew his sources were false when he wrote the articles and decided to use them anyway.
While Ayyadurai may believe any history of email he hasn’t wormed his way into is false, a reasonable and knowledgeable person would not, and I don’t see one scintilla of evidence that Mike was thinking "well these guys are total liars but I’ll quote them in my articles because fuck Shiva." And no, Shiva, your hallucinations about Mike’s motivations don’t count as evidence.

On a final note, the judge’s statement that
"a settlement is not a direct reflection of the merits of a claim"
is something that bears repeating often, not just in this case, or even just for defamation cases, but also in copyright/patent/porn trolling cases as well.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You’d like to think so, but I’m honestly not sure if his ego and the self-image he seems to have built up would allow him to drop it.

I imagine the ‘best case scenario’ will have him drop the legal angle as not getting him anywhere and moving back to ‘just’ whining about that pesky ‘history’ and how clearly anyone who disagrees with him is doing so because they’re racists who just can’t stand the idea of a ‘darkie’ having ‘invented’ email.

Dave Cortright (profile) says:

Please write another article about how Shiva didn't invent email

In fact, you should write one every week. Just like Bruce Schneier has his Friday squid blog post, you should have a weekly "Shiva STILL didn’t invent email" post. You could crowdfund some of the writing. I’d pay $20 to get a particularly purple descriptor published:

Shiva—who even narcissists refer to as a completely delusional, self-absorbed waste of his constituent atomic elements…

XcOM987 (profile) says:

Re: Please write another article about how Shiva didn't invent email

Noooo,

I would go one better, every friday write a new post, about something else that Shiva didn’t invent, something like this:

How Shiva didn’t invent Microsoft
How Shiva didn’t invent Outloook
How Shiva didn’t invent Cars
How Shiva didn’t invent Water
How Shiva didn’t invent IBM

Something like that would be much better.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

Appeals

He can appeal all he wants-the rule of thumb is that the next judge to see it will have the ruling of the previous court and all the paperwork from that.

He has to come up with another set of lies to set it up with. I’m sure he’ll be creative.

Judges don’t usually like to go against one another, and if he keeps this kind of thing up, he can get cited for wasting the court’s time with a ‘frivolous and unmerited’ appeal based on a case that the previous judge had patiently and carefully explained was a total waste of his time, too.

The only people getting anything out of this will be the lawyers. Their fees will depend on churning out the paperwork.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Appeals

There’s also the matter of the judge appearing to believe that “who invented email” is a matter of opinion, per the ruling.

If this does go to appeal, I hope the next judge settles the matter and dismisses the case with prejudice so Shiva can’t keep dragging Mike back into court to demand that Techdirt upholds his fantasy.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Appeals

There’s also the matter of the judge appearing to believe that "who invented email" is a matter of opinion, per the ruling.

That’s because, legally, it is; that was Techdirt’s own legal argument, in fact. Here’s from one of their legal filings (pardon the formatting on the copy-paste job):

The debate over who “invented” email is inherently
incapable of objective proof. With
respect to email, “‘there seems to be little disagr
eement over who wrote what, and approximately
when.’” (Compl., Ex. F. at 4 (quoting Tom Van Vleck
).) The argument, instead, “‘is over what to
call things.’” (Id.; see also Compl., Ex. E at 2 (o
bserving that the origins of email are “not
exactly a cut-and-dried case”).) Writers such as Ma
snick argue that all of the core features of
email were in place by the mid-1970s. Plaintiff and
his supporters, by contrast, advocate for a
narrow definition of email; they insist that to con
stitute email, a program must “contain[] all the
features we experience today in every email program
,” and they rely on an 87-item list of
features that they say must be satisfied for a prog
ram to qualify. (Compl., Ex. D at 7; V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai,
Definition of Email
, available at
http://www.inventorofemail.com/definition_of_email.asp
(see Table 2).) It is like a debate over the preci
se moment when the civil rights
movement began, or a quarrel about the essential at
tributes of a perfect cheesecake. These are
matters of “personal judgment.” See Gray, 221 F.3d
at 248. Neither position can be factually
proven; one’s conclusion depends on what one consid
ers to be the defining attributes of the
matter in question.

The legal system has no business weighing in on the definition of "e-mail" and determining the moment it was invented; allowing judges to define computer terms is a legitimately terrible idea. The question of who invented e-mail is not one for the law to decide, it’s a matter for the court of public opinion.

What the judge decided is that we can look at Ayyadurai’s arguments for why he should be considered the inventor of e-mail, and we can look at Techdirt’s arguments for why he shouldn’t be, and we can draw our own conclusions; that the question of whether or not Shiva truly invented e-mail is up to our personal judgement, not his legal judgement. That is the correct decision.

The definition of "e-mail" is subjective; who invented it is therefore a matter of opinion. Techdirt’s opinion, based on cited public facts, is that he is not. I agree with Techdirt, and I daresay everybody else in the comments here does too, except the trolls who still insist that Prenda didn’t break any laws.

And the more sites report on this, the more people are going to agree with Techdirt’s conclusions, because they cite facts and argue persuasively. That’s the marketplace of ideas working the way it’s supposed to. It’s also what Shiva is most afraid of, and the reason he’s trying to intimidate news sites into not criticizing him.

Anonymous Coward says:

Congratulations!

It is excellent news. I would have been very sad if Techdirt had lost this fight. Most of us had no doubt that you all deserved to win, but you never know anymore.
You are probably and understandably out to celebrate, but it is still kind of sad that you are. It means that this great burden has been lifted that threatened to destroy your life and work, but in a case like this, it never should have become such a burden in the first place.
It should have been something for you to tell your pals to have a laugh – “You know what this guy tried to do?” and not feel like “Holy cow… we just dodged a bullet here”.

Despite the negativity in this post, my day got better as well from this news. So may you celebrate into the morning and suffer no hangovers.

David says:

Not a win for free speech

as long as there are legal costs to be paid of which the court costs are a minor fraction.

Anti-SLAPP laws are really only a fig leaf (not that they would be a bad idea): “loser pays” should become the rule at least for cases that are so clear that they should not even have required a court, and of course with limits in billable costs either way, like it is done in civilized countries with “loser pays” rules.

PACook (profile) says:

This is a great victory for not just for Techdirt, but for all 1A advocates. I’m so very thrilled that this ridiculous SLAPP case was dismissed. As “sciamiko” says, we come here cuz Techdirt provides well researched reporting. I will continue to support Techdirt and any deserving Internet “voice” in the anti-SLAPP fight. Well DONE! Kudos to legal team and glad our modest contributions helped.

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Congrats Etc

Congrats to the whole Techdirt team for dodging a bullet, and a reasonably well aimed one at that. You should count yourselves very lucky that you ended up in front of a judge who was willing to review the claims and decide before sending you to trial. it’s not unusual for this sort of case to go that way.

That said, perhaps some lessons could be learned from all of this. The most important one is that mockery and taunting is not the best way to get things done. You can take the time to figure out the billable hours on one of these things, and consider it carefully before you go down the same road again. Even if you keep winning, it can get very expensive to get there.

As for the mythical question for anti-SLAPP, I wish you luck. The power of anti-SLAPP is perhaps a little too strong at times, and I would not be shocked to see it challenged as a legal concept at some point in the future. You may think of it as a free speech utopia, but it may not work out quite that way.

So keep up the good work, cut out the pointless nastiness, and FFS fix the flagging system, it sucks!

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Re: Congrats Etc

I disagree with people. I tell them what I think. I don’t taunt or mock people randomly for fun. Mostly I point out that certain people (like PaulT) are a bit daft.

Go look at my post history – and look at why I posted. You might see what taunting and mockery looks like (and good job yourself on that!)

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Congrats Etc

I replied to someone who attacked me in the same tone and manner they did. I didn’t start it, but clearly I ended it. After that, you can see someone trying to troll some more and failing.

Perhaps you might consider that what you are doing right now is trolling as well, and certainly and totally 100% off topic?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Congrats Etc

Your entire post history is off topic trolling. Maybe take your own advise for once. But we all know you won’t and how you hate the first admendment except when it pertains to you. And yet you seem to be impervious to the cognitive dissonance that would lay low a lesser troll.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I hope this Shiva person gets all the publicity and notoriety for the liar that he is.”

Well that is probably partly why he did it. He was running for office. My hope is that a counter suite for damages is in the works, and that other SLAPP victems of this guy will now pile on.

It is my belief that he was probably acting as proxy for other interests in this matter. It would be nice to make him squeal and find out who was actually backing this litigation. My guess is it is some kind of quid pro quo for political donations. Probably a telecom.

The cats paw parable comes to mind.

Vijay says:

Race is Everything

Gentleman / Ladies,
This appears to be a forum of all white people. I can tell by the tone. What you fail to understand is that despite the workings of Babylon to rebuild that race is everything. The DNA that makes up a person closely resonates with the others of the tribe and that’s why voter blocks exist. So other Indians will vote for the “Email Inventor” based on the fact that they can relate to many things about him. They won’t listen or care about the email case. After race then ideals comes next and the white Trumpsters & Repubs will then vote for him. The other peoples of color will not vote for him. As usual the real issues (dishonesty / megalomania) don’t matter nearly as much as the public hope / perception of the person.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Race is Everything

Sure. I’ve seen otherwise seemingly reasonable people support Ayyadurai’s email claims even, just because they relate to him culturally or because they buy his “i’m being held down by the Man” shtick. Of course plenty of people will vote along identity lines. Not buying into the opening pseudosciencey statements there, though.

Scott S. (profile) says:

strong anti-SLAPP laws

CONGRATULATIONS!!!

But anti-SLAPP laws that only include legal fees are WEAK, not strong or effective deterrents against deep-pocketed SLAPP suit filers.

To be truly strong and effective deterrents, anti-SLAPP laws must also include significant punitive damages, including against the attorneys who filed the SLAPP suit.

The only ones who really benefit from weak anti-SLAPP laws that only include legal fees, are the attorneys on BOTH sides.

If anti-SLAPP laws include legal fees, plus significant punitive damages against the SLAPP suit filer and their unethical attorneys, SLAPP suits would likely drop by well over 90%.

But that may never happen since attorneys and judges are so resistant to supporting laws that penalize bad attorneys.

patrick says:

Re: strong anti-SLAPP laws

That’s brilliant. Let’s threaten people with outrageous costs if they want to bring their constitutionally protected right to a lawsuit.
Are you also on the side of a soda tax or tobacco tax to make it painfully expensive for people to enjoy a drink or a smoke?
Monetary deterrents should not be used for things that some people have decided are bad.
There is always a group of people out there who are looking to be offended by things that are really non of their business.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: strong anti-SLAPP laws

That’s brilliant. Let’s threaten people with outrageous costs if they want to bring their constitutionally protected right to a lawsuit.

Anti-SLAPP laws do not affect good-faith lawsuits, only lawsuits that are self-evidently brought to chill free speech. Anti-SLAPP laws do not infringe the constitutional rights of plaintiffs, they protect the constitutional rights of defendants.

Are you also on the side of a soda tax or tobacco tax to make it painfully expensive for people to enjoy a drink or a smoke?

What the fuck does that have to do with anything?

Monetary deterrents should not be used for things that some people have decided are bad.

That’s…an interesting legal theory. So do you think the penalty for parking in a loading zone should be jail time, or should they go straight to execution?

There is always a group of people out there who are looking to be offended by things that are really non of their business.

Seriously, what the fuck are you talking about?

Aaron says:

Re: Re: Re:3 strong anti-SLAPP laws

What’s the problem with Randazza?
He’s actually done a lot of good for his clients. But let’s not forget Randazza and every other attorney are just following the rules that are in place. You seem to want to play both sides of the fence Scott. You personally filed two anti-SLAPP lawsuits against the same company. I don’t know the specifics of those lawsuits but you lost them both. Using your way you would be on the hook for 10’s of thousands of dollars if not more. As I said I don’t know the specifics of your suits but I’m sure it is something you truly believed in. Would you want to be punished just for trying and losing?

Dave says:

Re: Re: Re:2 strong anti-SLAPP laws

Some people just have too much time on their hands. Lazy people with no job who are content with living in someone else’s home, using someone else’s electricity and air conditioning, sitting in someone else’s chair in their dirty underwear spewing out hate-filled rants. Just to give self-admiration to one who craves attention in their grandiose view of themselves.
Besides we all know who “Thad”is !!

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 strong anti-SLAPP laws

Besides we all know who "Thad"is !!

Of course everybody knows who I am. I post under my real name. With a link to my blog at the top of each post. If I were trying to hide my identity, that’d be a pretty dumb way of doing it.

Speaking of dumb ways of trying to hide your identity, I’m guessing you didn’t know that we can tell when two posts are written by the same guy because of the icon up above them, huh, "Dave"?

Jeff says:

Re: Re: Re:6 strong anti-SLAPP laws

Interesting, Scott and Thad both respond about 11:00am on the 7th and 8th. I guess they both stay up late filling out resumes.
I can’t seem to find Thad’s website that he speaks of.
Maybe it was taken from him Scott or maybe it’s just a big coincidence.
I guess you “guys” can sit around and praise each other if nothing good is on TV.
Take care,
Entrepreneurmen

Scott S. (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 strong anti-SLAPP laws

Besides being a paranoid troll, you sure must have a lot of extra time on your hands. I have no idea who Thad is or what’s up with his website, whatever it is. But I do know this thread is supposed to be about anti-SLAPP laws. And since you’re making wild accusations about others, why won’t you ever admit who you are or what your website is? I don’t know about Thad, but I see no reason to waste anymore time on a troll who’s too afraid to come out of the shadows.

dave says:

Re: Re: Re:8 strong anti-SLAPP laws

You obvious don’t realize that you can start a new profile in a couple of minutes with a different name. Like was done starting a few days ago. But a bit of FireEye tells me they came from the same ip address in the Orangevale/Citrus
Heights area of Sacramento. Also the house address does not have your name on it. So stop trying to be sly and change your underwear.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 strong anti-SLAPP laws

Some people just have too much time on their hands. Lazy people with no job who are content with living in someone else’s home, using someone else’s electricity and air conditioning, sitting in someone else’s chair in their dirty underwear spewing out hate-filled rants. Just to give self-admiration to one who craves attention in their grandiose view of themselves.

Well, we can’t all be like you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The intent was never to win, not even with the incredibly tortured definitions of email Ayyadurai later offered up.

The intent was to make the case so long and drawn out that Techdirt would run out of money before a verdict was reached. This, as with Gawker, would have a chilling effect on others, especially those without a billionaire benefactor, lest they too see their organisation go down the tubes.

That’s why lawyers were needed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I like how most of Hamilton’s recent rants involved comparing Techdirt to Nazis.

Turns out his hero supports them. Maybe that’s why he hasn’t showed his face around – either he’s too ashamed or his brain overheated from the logic bomb. Probably the latter. Hamilton, by all appearances, seems to be utterly shameless.

Fredric L. Rice (user link) says:

I was using email since 1972

When I read that asshole’s demands that he invented email, I read it decades ago and I emailed him informing him that he was full of shit and that I had been using email since 1972.

Now I see that the “doctor” asshole has continued to lie about “inventing email” in 1978 which is pure bullshit.

I was wire-wrapping my own computers when I was 12 years old, using 4 bit CPUs and television screens for output, back when the DARPANet was not yet opened up for public access. That was before the MSI8080, the Ohio Scientific, Prolog, Datalog, Xerox 820, TRS-80, and everything else in the 6800 / 6802 / Z80 arena started.

I have been in computer hardware and software — toggled in using assembly op codes! using toggle switches — and myself and my fellow Heath kit users sent and received email back in the early 1970s.

We stored our data on 8 inch floppies and before that on rotating drums — literally Quaker Oats cardboard plated with magnetizing materials which separate data read and data write heads accessed.

The ass clown’s lies are outrageous, he did not invent email, people like me — old assholes in our own rights — were sending emails among ourselves long before that asshole got a commercially-available computer. We made our own, we created our own software.

By the way, that was before the first “killer application” was ever created, a decade before the first “killer app” — which was a spreadsheet.

I’m glad to see that the courts recognize the fact that the lying sack of shit is a lying sack of shit.

Also by the way: The guy who created the first BBS could not be identified, either, because the dial-up BBS was a world wide effort, it developed over the course of years through several hundred people’s work. Email was the same thing, many people developed email which has undergone change over time.

That was before Planet Connect came on board, LONG before AOL opened up things, long before DARPANet opened up public access.

My opinions only, and only my opinions, as always.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Certain quirks in the writing voice of “Hamilton” seem familiar to quirks in Ayyadurai’s writing on social media—notably the emphasis on the adjective “American” and the capitalization of almost any noun following it (e.g., “American Inventors”). The attempts to gaslight people here with constant “so [x], right?” questions also mirrors Shiva’s practice of moving the goalposts on his claims during interviews.

Given how “Hamilton” has not shown up in the comments as of late, I suspect that he was Ayyadurai. I also suspect that he planned to submit all the “mean” replies to him as evidence of further “defamation”. That he could do so—which the judge pointed out in the dismissal ruling—appears to have deterred him from further trolling here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Including all the fantasies he has about Massachusetts and his supposed heritage? Simultaneously with his entire shtick about being poor and Indian being the chief reason for his enduring popularity with his fans? Wow, what a two-faced jackass. I can’t say I’m surprised, but it still has to be said.

For the great lawyer that Charles Harder supposedly is, if he didn’t stop Shiva (or possibly encouraged him) from posting that garbage to use as evidence, he’s even dumber than I’d thought.

Joe says:

I think Shiva Ayyadurai will win his appeal, and the lawsuit will be reinstated, for the following reasons.

Shiva Ayyadurai has clearly stated in many places what he means by email when he says he invented email.

Techdirt will need to show the jury, by a preponderance of evidence, that Ayyadurai was lying when he said that he invented email as he (Ayyadurai) defines email. This is going to be hard. Ayyadurai has made a good case that he did invent what he calls “email”.

Dan (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Pretty much everything about this is wrong. First, even if the appeal results in a reversal (which is unlikely), the odds are slim that the case ever goes to a jury. Second, if it does, Shiva (not Techdirt) will need to convince the jury, by clear and convincing evidence (not a preponderance), that Techdirt (not Shiva) lied when they said Shiva didn’t invent email. That is, Shiva will have to prove, to a high level, that Techdirt knew what they were saying was false, but said it anyway. In order to do that, Shiva will need to prove (also to a high level) that he did invent email, but that’s just the start of his burden of proof. And he’s the plaintiff, so the burden is squarely on him. And it’s unlikely he’ll be able to rely on his “email means this highly-specific definition I’ve invented, not the general system that’s been documented as having been around since before I was born.”

You’re right about one thing, though: that will be very hard. For Shiva, that is.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

In United States defamation cases, the burden of proof lies on the plaintiff. If Shiva wins his appeal and the suit is reinstated, he would still need to prove that Techdirt defamed him. To prove that, he would have to prove that Techdirt made knowingly false statements with reckless disregard for Ayyadurai’s reputation.

An offer of any such proof would require Ayyadurai to admit facts. Not facts that fit his worldview or facts that fit the claims he made, but facts that impartial observers can look at and agree on being objective facts. (As objective as we can be sure of, anyway.) His claims twist definitions and facts in an attempt to gaslight the ignorant and the foolish. But when he cannot move the goalposts, he cannot win the argument; the dismissal of this case proves as much.

The historical record of ARPANET and the development of the three major backbone protocols—none of which Ayyadurai was involved or influenced in any way—says he did not invent email as we know it today. Even if he wins a new trial, Shiva Ayyadurai would still need to overcome the best defense to a charge of defamation: the truth.

Dennis Laurion says:

SLAPP policy

Heartfelt congratulations.

I’ve lived the consumer side of this SLAPP topic.

Minnesota First Amendment lawyer Marshall Tanick was earlier quoted in a Star Tribune newspaper article August 27, 2001. It said in part: “If a company sues, alleging simple business disparagement or perhaps defamation, its goal isn’t necessarily to win,” said Marshall Tanick, a First Amendment expert . . . “The strategy is to force the other person to incur huge legal expenses that will deter them and others from making such statements,” he said . . . “yet very few (cases) go all the way to trial and verdict,” Tanick said.

I suspect that if Minnesota had a stronger SLAPP statute, more readily known by lawyers in 2010, I might not have been sued from 2010 through 2013 for criticizing the bedside manner of a Duluth doctor.

Unlike other SLAPP statutes that protect any public interest speech, Minnesota’s only protect(ed) speech aimed at government processes. I think opposing counsel was mindful of that when his suit on behalf of his plaintiff addressed only my Internet comments and not my letters to government bodies.

A good SLAPP statute does not prevent an insulted doctor or plumber from getting his jury trial, but it does make his suit get scrutinized for validity more quickly – particularly in Minnesota, which maintains the quaint custom of hip pocket law suits. During four years of depositions, discovery, hearings, and motions, I never once spoke to a judge.

My four years of association with the defamation process was a distressing war of financial attrition for my family. The plaintiff’s first contact with me was a letter that said in part that he had the means and motivation to pursue me. The suit cost me the equivalent of two year’s net income – the same as 48 of my car payments plus 48 of my house payments. My family members had to dip into retirement funds to help me.

We were overwhelmed by my being sued after posting a consumer opinion, and we were shocked by the rapidity with which it happened. My mother and wife preferred no discussion, because they didn’t want to think about it. Conversation with my father only reminded him of his anger over this situation. My siblings and children didn’t often bring it up, because they didn’t know how to say anything helpful. I was demoralized by four calendar years of being called “Defendant Laurion” in public documents.

While being sued for defamation I was called a passive aggressive, an oddball, a liar, a coward, a bully, a malicious person, a Boy Scout who did no good deed, and a zealot family member. I was said to have run a cottage industry vendetta, writing 19 letters, and posting 108 adverse Internet postings in person or through proxies.

After receipt of a threat letter from opposing counsel on behalf of his client, I deleted my rate-your-doctor site postings and sent confirmation emails to opposing counsel. Not only was I sued, but I was denigrated as a liar in a demand letter to my insurance provider of 25 years, in spite of the fact that I didn’t carry liability insurance.

Since May of 2010, postings on the Internet by others included newspaper accounts of the lawsuit; readers’ remarks about the newspaper accounts; and blog opinion pieces written by doctors, lawyers, public relations professionals, patient advocates, and information technology experts. Dozens of websites by doctors, lawyers, patient advocates, medical students, law schools, consumer advocates, and free speech monitors posted opinions that a doctor or plumber shouldn’t sue the family of a customer for a bad rating. These authors never said they saw my deleted ratings – only the news coverage.

Medical peer newsletters or magazines that interviewed the plaintiff did not approach me. Websites maintained by doctors for doctors or lawyers for lawyers often caused an inference that I was a zealot family member or somebody who had asked about my dad’s chances and then shot the messenger. Generally, however, those websites echoed other websites in advising public relations responses other than a lawsuit – for fear of creating the “Streisand Effect.” As a retired layman, I brought far less resources to the battle of financial attrition.

I’ve learned that laws about slander and libel do not conform to one’s expectations. I’ve read that online complaints are safe “if you stick to the facts.” That’s exactly the wrong advice. I did not want to merely post my conclusions. I wanted to stick to my recollection of what I’d heard. I don’t like to read generalities like “I am upset,” “I think the doctor did not treat my father well,” “I think he was insensitive,” “he did not spend enough time in my opinion.” However, such generalities are excused as opinion, hyperbole, or angry utterances. I heard opposing counsel tell the Minnesota Supreme Court that if I had stuck to such generalities, they’d not have been considered defamatory. If one purports to say what happened, factual recitations can be litigated. The plaintiff must prove the facts are willfully misstated, but the defendant can go broke while waiting through the effort – they can “incur huge legal expenses that will deter them and others from making such statements.”

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