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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.


Reader Comments

The First Word

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  1. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 11 Jan 2017 @ 2:21pm

    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.

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