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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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2017 @ 12:00am

    I really hope you can get this tossed and file a counter suit against the guy

    For the time and wasting and emotional distress caused by a superfluous lawsuit (or whatever the term they use, a series of charges the like of what Jimmy(Saul) tells his community service supervisor for telling him to work with a very injured back or he's not getting his hours (in Better Call Saul).

    I used to use read you more during 2005-2015, right now i'm unemployed, with so many painkillers and just under a 2000 dollars of private insurance a month + some 700 something from the government from a work related injury, one that comes with repeated movement inherent to the job and being forced to work because I was out of sick days. So, I take morphine tablets and some cannabinoid pharmaceutical called Cesamet to counter the morphine nausea. Otherwise if i was working right now I'd throw a thousand at you TD. You've been telling it like it is since so long and your manifesto articles to the right are still as relevant as ever.

    Only on question, did you make the propornot "blacklist" that contained a ton of real untainted journalism sites, but because they don't agree with the CNN narrative of geopolitics, they're spreading bullshit by default. Robert Parry of consortiumnews said he was actually pleased to be on the list of websites that is considered something the government would rather the braindead citizens never read.

    Sure there was some crap in there, yournewswire, beforeitsnews, but anyone with some sense is able to seperate real from fake. I know Bob Parry, since the 80's, he worked with Gary "2-bullets-behind-the-head-suicided" Webb, won pulitzers etc. We need investigative journalists in every field, not dittoheads.

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