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Man Who 'Invented Email' Loses Lawsuit Against Techdirt

By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 08, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Dorothy proved it: say something enough and it will come true.

However, for Shiva Ayyadurai, the self-proclaimed inventor of email, it didn't work out that way. He sued Techdirt and its publisher for libel for saying his claim was "complete bull____." U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor ;found in favor of Techdirt.

"One person may consider a claim to be "fake" if any element of it is not true or if it involves a slight twisting of the facts, while another person may only consider a claim to be 'fake' only if no element of it is true," said Judge Saylor.

Technical translation: case dismissed.

Unprovable Claim

Techdirt, an irreverent critic of stupid patents and other questionable technology, has long challenged Ayyadurai's claim. "How The Guy Who Didn't Invent Email Got Memorialized In The Press & The Smithsonian As The Inventor Of Email," says one of 13 Techdirt stories about the controversial claim.

Ayyadurai, who said he invented email in the late 1970s, got tired of the criticism and sued in January. He alleged, in Massachusetts federal court, that the online publication libeled him -- 84 times.

But the judge said that the publication was protected by the First Amendment, that the plaintiff was a public figure, that he would have to show actual malice. He would also have to show his claim was true, Ars Technica reported.

In perhaps the most painful part for the plaintiff, the judge said Ayyadurai couldn't prove that he actually invented email. Plus, the allegedly defamatory statements couldn't be proved to be true or false.


The defendants won their motion to dismiss, but lost a motion for attorney's fees. Techdirt asked the judge to apply California's Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) statute, but he declined.

Saylor said Massachusetts has a strong interest in protecting its citizens from tortuous conduct, which would be disserved by the California law.

"Under the circumstances presented here, there is no reason to favor California's policy over that of Massachusetts," he said.

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