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Techdirt Settles Case With So-Called 'Inventor of Email'

Close-up Of A Businessperson's Hand Using Laptop With Gavel On Wooden Desk
By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Techdirt, an irreverent blogsite about tech cases, backs up its talk when others walk.

For example, the ezine just sued Immigration and Customs Enforcement for refusing its request for information under the Freedom of Information Act. See, Techdirt walks the talk.

On the other hand, some Techdirt cases are not so serious -- like the case of the so-called "inventor of email." Techdirt wouldn't pay the plaintiff, and so he walked.

Money Talks?

Techdirt published a lot of stories about Shiva Ayyadurai, the self-proclaimed inventor of email. Here's a gem: "How The Guy Who Didn't Invent Email Got Memorialized In The Press & The Smithsonian As The Inventor Of Email"

Ayyadurai, who claims he invented email in the late 1970s, sued Techdirt for the constant criticism. He alleged in a Massachusetts federal court that the online publication libeled him -- 84 times. The judge, however, said Techdirt was protected by the First Amendment.

That should have settled it, but Ayyadurai pushed on for almost two years more. The story finally ended with a settlement: the parties simply walked away -- no money exchanged. The defendant explained:

"We're happy to have it behind us," said Techdirt founder Mike Masnick. "We stand by what we wrote and we will continue to report the way we report."

As part of the settlement, however, Techdirt agreed to add links to a previous rebuttal that the plaintiff wrote years ago.

Plaintiff Walks

In a way, Ayyadurai was lucky he got away without sanctions. In earlier proceedings, the judge denied Techdirt's motion for attorneys' fees. The blogsite asked the Massachusetts judge to apply California's Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) statute, but the judge declined.

He said Massachusetts has a strong interest in protecting its citizens from tortious 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," the judge said.

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