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

David Golumbia dgolumbia at gmail.com
Sat Feb 25 15:50:21 PST 2017

I read all of the documents a few days ago and my feeling is that Ayyadurai
himself, perhaps flush with both cash and an exaggerated sense of himself
after the Gawker "victory," has insisted his lawyers go one step too far,
and that they could not persuade him otherwise, for all the reasons
self-important hucksters often can't be contained by reason. the Volokh
article points, for me, in the same direction, and suggests Ayyadurai or
someone close to him may have insisted on writing or contributing to
certain parts of the documents on his own behalf.

I think Techdirt's filings are very strong; the sense of something very
real being at stake here (having to do with the ability of billionaires to
put journalists out of business) has meant that several entities have
decided to back Masnick, whatever it takes; and that Ayyadurai is likely to
suffer a major loss here, because there is no similiar monetary lever as
there was in the Gawker case, which SA may not be willing to let himself
see. That may not stop him (indeed I'm not sure he can drop the case now
even if his lawyers advise it, due to the anti-SLAPP motion), but it may
make it very difficult for him to do anything substantive with his bogus
claim to be "inventor of email" vs what he really is, "owner of the
copyright for a single program called EMAIL in 1982, which was of
relatively minor--if any--importance in the history of electronic

I am not a lawyer either, but I've had to develop a pretty robust ability
to read and deal with law as part of my scholarly work, and my sense is
that this case was a major mistake on Ayyadurai's part, and that this case
may well turn out to be an important one for facts and the integrity of
journalism, which would be very welcome right now. and i say this as
someone who has been fairly public with my serious disagreement with many
of the general positions Techdirt takes. He would have been better off
taking a vacation on his Gawker winnings.


On Sat, Feb 25, 2017 at 6:01 PM, Thomas Haigh <thomas.haigh at gmail.com>

> The other interesting news last week on the email invention front was
> reporting of several motions filed by Techdirt in response to Ayyadurai’s
> lawsuit.
> There’s analysis and links to the motions from
> https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/02/techdirt-
> lawyers-ask-judge-to-throw-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.
> https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3252883/
> Techdirt-Emaillawsuit.pdf
> I was also interested in analysis of the case by Eugene Volokh at the
> Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/
> 2017/01/13/what-a-strange-allegation-in-alleged-inventor-of-e-mail-vs-
> techdirt-lawsuit/?utm_term=.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,
> Tom
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David Golumbia
dgolumbia at gmail.com
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