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: defamation, first amendment, free press, free speech, techdirt
Companies: floor64, techdirt

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The First Word

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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    Sure I'll Put My Real Name, 13 Jan 2017 @ 9:18am

    I used to like this website, till I realized you were just more nauseating Silicon Valley leftoid virtue-signalling SJW dipshits, as evidenced by the hysterical anti-Trump propaganda you constantly publish.

    So while I would agree with you this lawsuit is wholly woithout merit and the complainant is an idiot, I can't say I have much sympathy for you at all. From a coment above, a good summary "Worse yet, because this site tends to get a bit mouthy and insulting towards people, there is plenty of ammo that can be used to keep you turning around for ages."

    As you may have guessed, I am from the alt-right, and we have to endure thousands of fake news/outright lie/insult attacks on us every day, coming from people like you, who will torture any "fact" until it suits your agenda, get us banned from social medias, dox us, seek to end our careers etc - just for having a viewpoint that differs from yours. So while this lawsuit is not the right method, I mentally file it under "Karma: what goes around comes around", in view of all the idiotic assertions about people on the right made here, in posts and comments, over the last few years. Is that too harsh, probably, but like most of the people I know on the right, we are totally fed up to the sky with the antics of the left. See "SJWs Always Lie" for more.

    I've joined the alt-tech movement, and our goal is to destroy all of the current digital left-coast elite and every one of their vile leftoid propaganda organs posing as businesses. Which plans are well into the implementation stage, I am pleased to report. The left has had a good run for the last 50 years, but it's over now, the pendulum is swinging back to the right, so I hoped you enjoyed your time in the sun while it lasted.

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