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.


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The First Word

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  1. identicon
    Thad, 11 Jan 2017 @ 3:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.


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