[SIGCIS-Members] Techdirt motions seeking to have Ayyadurai case dismissed

Thomas Haigh thomas.haigh at gmail.com
Sat Feb 25 15:01:48 PST 2017

The other interesting news last week on the email invention front was
reporting of several motions filed by Techdirt in response to Ayyadurai's


There's analysis and links to the motions from
row-out-defamation-suit-over-inventor-of-e-mail/. One of them tries to move
the case to California. Among other things, California has relatively strong
anti-SLAPP measures designed to deter frivolous defamation lawsuits.


Another asks for the case to be dismissed immediately.
https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3468184-13-Main.html Some
interesting arguments there. I'm not by any means a legal expert but they do
seem to point to a high bar in a case like this. The things said need to be
provably false, and according to the motion subjective opinions are
therefore inherently not actionable. The motion claims that Ayyadurai's
complaint doesn't dispute facts presented by Techdirt, only disagree with
opinions. To win damages Ayyadurai would need to document actual economic
harm, which the motion suggests was not documented in his complaint. The
motion also points out that as a public figure, a fairly low bar to reach,
Ayyadurai would apparently to show malice - not just that Techdirt made
false and damaging claims but that Masnick either recklessly failed to check
the claims or knew what he was saying to be false.


It's certainly noticeable to me, as a non-lawyer, that the Techdirt motion
is full of legal specifics and citations to case law, whereas Ayyadurai's
complaint instead has many pages full of character witness statements and
media quotes it claims support the idea that he invented email.


I was also interested in analysis of the case by Eugene Volokh at the
Washington Post.
m=.ee68f735aac4  Volookh expressed surprise that a legal filing would claim
that "Ayyadurai was legally recognized by the United States government as
the inventor of email through the issuance of the first U.S. Copyright
registration for "Email" ". Volokh writes


No - a copyright registration for a program named "email" is not the U.S.
government recognizing Ayyadurai "as the inventor of email." No-one at the
Copyright Office determines whether a program (or any other work) is a new
invention. (Patent examiners may do that, but the Copyright Office doesn't.)
Indeed, no-one at the Copyright Office runs the program, reads the source
code, or tries to compare the program's description to those of other
programs.. That's why I'm surprised that Ayyadurai's lawyers, Timothy
Cornell and noted libel lawyer Charles Harder, even included this paragraph
in their Complaint - it just seems to me likely to lessen the credibility of
the claim with the judge. I had e-mailed them for their comments several
days ago, but have not heard back from them.


Best wishes,





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