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'Inventor of Email' Sues Techdirt to Prove It

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 13, 2017 2:57 PM

The supposed inventor of email has sued a blogger website that doesn't believe he invented it.

Techdirt, an irreverent blogsite about changes in government policy, technology, and legal issues, reported in a series of stories that Shiva Ayyadurai falsely claims to have invented email. Ayyarduri, who copyrighted "Email" and trademarked "The Inventor of Email," has sued Techdirt for defamation.

In a $15 million complaint filed in federal court, the plaintiff alleges that Techdirt and its founder Michael D. Masnick have damaged his reputation by publishing false stories saying Ayyarduri was a liar and a fake "who's basically staked his entire life on the misleading to false claim that he 'invented' email." They defend that they have a First Amendment right to express their opinions.

Stop Saying That!

Ayyardurai, who holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from MIT, says he invented email when he was 14-years-old. He details his accomplishments and claims as the email inventor in 10 pages of the 31-page complaint.

Techdirt, in a release, says the defamation claims are meritless. The company, operated by Floor64, Inc., stands by its reports as opinion.

"So, in our view, this is not a fight about who invented email," Masnick said. "This is a fight about whether or not our legal system will silence independent publications for publishing opinions that public figures do not like."

Concerned about the fate of his small start-up, however, Masnick said Ayyadurai's lawyer helped put a much larger company out of business. In that case, Hulk Hogan sued Gawker over a leaked sex-tape and received a $31 million settlement.

Hollywood, Ho!

Ayyardurai also got a Hollywood vibe when he started dating Fran Drescher, but it stirred up more stories about his email invention. Gizmodo, Business Insider, and other online publishers said he did not invent email. They report his claims are built more on PR than original technology.

Other publishers, however, have bolstered his claims. Time, for example, said it was "not a cut-and-dried case" but labeled Ayyardurai as "The Man Who Invented Email."

At least, that's the story, and Ayyardurai is sticking with it.

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