Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Will the Self-Proclaimed 'Inventor of Email' Take Down TechDirt With Libel Suit?

One would never guess that the self-proclaimed inventor of e-mail would be so litigious. However, the now middle aged man wants his credit, and although TechDirt has provided critical coverage over his saga and claims, the website is now the focus of his litigious ire.

While this story has all the usual signs of silly, non-sense lawsuits, this is one book that shouldn't be judged based upon the cover. The lawyer representing the claimed inventor of email also represented Hulk Hogan against Gawker, and like Gawker, TechDirt is worried that the litigation will result in the news organization's demise. And while we're on the subject of Gawker, the email inventor sued them too. Gawker settled out for $750,000 in addition to removing all articles on the subject.

Truth to the Tale

Underlying the plaintiff's claim that he invented email is a copyright he received on an electronic messaging system he programmed in 1978 and named email, while only 14 years old. The copyright was received in the early 1980s, after the law was updated to allow computer programs to receive intellectual property protections. Additionally, in the plaintiff's legal complaint, he lists numerous other instances of the popular media crediting him as being the inventor of email. However, despite these numerous credits, there are some issues with claiming to be the inventor of email.

While there is clearly some merit to the claim, the problem is that electronic, e-mail style, communications had already been developed over a decade earlier. And while the litigious inventor asserts he created email in 1978, there is documented evidence that email was in use as early as 1965! But it should be noted that the claimed inventor can be credited with creating the generic term by which we all refer to our written electronic communications: EMAIL.

TechDirt Buried

While the internet abounds with articles about this contentious issue, those media companies that get caught in the sights of the litigious inventor need to gear up for a legal fight. Despite the fact that the inventor's own website isn't much to look at, TechDirt is primarily concerned that the costs to fight will cause them to go the way of Gawker.

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