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

Subramanian, Ramesh Prof. Ramesh.Subramanian at quinnipiac.edu
Sat Feb 25 16:13:25 PST 2017

Thanks, Tom, for posting the links, especially Eugene Volokh's comments. Here is another segment from his comments which stood out to me:

    "The footnote, which says “Footnote: The Online Etymology Dictionary lists “email” as entering the language in     1982, when Dr. Ayyadurai’s Copyright was registered. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=e-mail.” If     you check the Oxford English Dictionary, which is generally thought as somewhat more authoritative than the     Online Etymology Dictionary, you’ll see “e-mail” — defined as “A system for sending textual messages … to one     or more recipients via a computer network” dated to 1979:

Electronics 7 June 63 (heading) Postal Service pushes ahead with E-mail.

    The first quotation for “electronic mail” in the Oxford is from 1975, and the Oxford editors<http://public.oed.com/appeals/email/> suspect “e-mail”     must have been in use before 1979."


Ramesh Subramanian, Ph.D.
Gabriel Ferrucci Professor of Computer Information Systems
Quinnipiac University
Hamden, CT 06518.
Phone: 203-582-5276
Email:rameshs at quinnipiac.edu
Web: https://www.qu.edu/student-resources/directory/staff.23345.html
Fellow, Yale Law School - Information Society Project
New Haven, CT 06511
Email: ramesh.subramanian at yale.edu
Web: https://www.law.yale.edu/ramesh-subramanian
From: Members <members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org> on behalf of Thomas Haigh <thomas.haigh at gmail.com>
Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2017 6:01 PM
To: members at sigcis.org
Subject: QU Spamtrap [Score:4.2] [SIGCIS-Members] Techdirt motions seeking to have Ayyadurai case dismissed

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/<https://websitecheck.quinnipiac.edu/canit/urlproxy.php?_q=aHR0cHM6Ly9hcnN0ZWNobmljYS5jb20vdGVjaC1wb2xpY3kvMjAxNy8wMi90ZWNoZGlydC1sYXd5ZXJzLWFzay1qdWRnZS10by10aHJvdy1vdXQtZGVmYW1hdGlvbi1zdWl0LW92ZXItaW52ZW50b3Itb2YtZS1tYWlsLw%3D%3D&_r=cXVpbm5pcGlhYy1lZHU%3D&_s=cnN1YnJhbWFuaWFu>. 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<https://websitecheck.quinnipiac.edu/canit/urlproxy.php?_q=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZG9jdW1lbnRjbG91ZC5vcmcvZG9jdW1lbnRzLzM0NjgxODQtMTMtTWFpbi5odG1s&_r=cXVpbm5pcGlhYy1lZHU%3D&_s=cnN1YnJhbWFuaWFu> 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<https://websitecheck.quinnipiac.edu/canit/urlproxy.php?_q=aHR0cHM6Ly9hc3NldHMuZG9jdW1lbnRjbG91ZC5vcmcvZG9jdW1lbnRzLzMyNTI4ODMvVGVjaGRpcnQtRW1haWxsYXdzdWl0LnBkZg%3D%3D&_r=cXVpbm5pcGlhYy1lZHU%3D&_s=cnN1YnJhbWFuaWFu>

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<https://websitecheck.quinnipiac.edu/canit/urlproxy.php?_q=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cud2FzaGluZ3RvbnBvc3QuY29tL25ld3Mvdm9sb2toLWNvbnNwaXJhY3kvd3AvMjAxNy8wMS8xMy93aGF0LWEtc3RyYW5nZS1hbGxlZ2F0aW9uLWluLWFsbGVnZWQtaW52ZW50b3Itb2YtZS1tYWlsLXZzLXRlY2hkaXJ0LWxhd3N1aXQvP3V0bV90ZXJtPS5lZTY4ZjczNWFhYzQ%3D&_r=cXVpbm5pcGlhYy1lZHU%3D&_s=cnN1YnJhbWFuaWFu>  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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