March 14, 2017 Last Updated 12:27 pm

Techdirt looks to have lawsuit brought by software developer, represented by Hulk Hogan case lawyer, thrown out

Case involves a digital media property facing a $15 million lawsuit, this time involving the claims about the invention of email, and brought by the same law firm at the center of the lawsuit that drove Gawker out of business

The case of Shiva Ayyadurai v Techdirt hasn’t gotten much attention due to the political events occurring in the US, but the case has odd ties to them – and so when a Tweet appeared referring to the case today I felt that maybe it was time to play catch-up.

The case was brought on January 4th of this year by Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai, a controversial scientist who has claimed that he invented email in the late 1970’s while a New Jersey high school student. He is asking for $15 million in damages. His claims have been refuted, according to his own Wikipedia page – nonetheless, it is his position that he is the inventor of email, and plenty of articles have been published that seem to casually reinforce his claims.

The dispute with Techdirt dates from 2014 when the website published a story entitled “Why Is HuffingtonPost Running A Multi-Part Series To Promote The Lies Of A Guy Who Pretended to Invent Email?” In the story was written by Mike Masnick, and now one of the defendants in the case.

You can read the court case here and try to follow along. I have no dog in this fight as I could care less who claims they invented email – after all, if you think about it, email kind of sucks anyways. (Like Microsoft Word, email programs seem stuck in any other time, unable to evolve into something more useful and relevant to today’s work environment and lifestyle. It is why texting and social media has surpassed it.)

The thing to note here is that the case was brought by Charles Harder – and if that name rings a bell it damn well should. He represented Hulk Hogan in the Gawker trial, and was supported in that case by Peter Thiel.

According to a story in Fortune that appeared in January after the lawsuit against Techdirt was filed, no one knows if Thiel is connected to this case (or, at least, the law firm did not at the time respond to Fortune’s inquiry).

Today, according to Techdirt, the website has a new filing attempting to have the case against one of the defendants dismissed pursuant to the California Anti-SLAPP law. (Definition: A “strategic lawsuit against public participation” lawsuit that is intended to censor or intimidate critics.)

We will see how this all works out, but as some are describing it, Techdirt is fighting for its life.

“Even if California-based TechDirt could likely win at trial, the case may still prove ruinous for Masnick,” Jeff John Roberts wrote in Fortune in January. “The expense of mounting a defense across the country may be prohibitive for his small company, while depositions and other aspects of the legal process would prove time-consuming and expensive.”

While the Gawker case had many in the media world divided on the issue of the website’s actions, this one seems all about a difference of opinion regarding a claim. Maybe it is the claim of invention that really needs to be worked out definitively.

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