The man who says he invented email sues owner of tech site that doubted his claim


Indian-born American scientist Shiva Ayyadurai has taken umbrage with the tech media site TechDirt over a series of stories that attempted to debunk Ayyadurai’s claim that he invented email.

Ayyadurai is suing TechDirt’s founder, Mike Masnick, for defamation to the tune of $15 million.

One of Ayyadurai’s websites,, explains how, at the age of 14, Ayyadurai invented email. In 1982 Ayyadurai was granted the copyright for the term “email.” On his website Ayyadurai also notes the “substantial controversy” surrounding the claim and Ayyadurai’s long fight against those that doubt him.

The lawsuit filed against Masnick states that TechDirt had engaged in an ongoing assault against Ayyadurai in a series of stories attempting to prove that his claims are fraudulent.

Ayyadurai is represented by Charles Harder. Harder rose to fame in the Gawker vs Hulk Hogan case and has since been called “the rich man’s favorite tool for assaulting journalism.” Harder had also previously represented Ayyadurai when Gawker claimed he had not invented email. Ayyadurai won that case, later saying, “History will reflect that this settlement is a victory for truth.”

In no uncertain terms TechDirt had questioned Ayyadurai’s claim, stating that it is “complete bullshit. It’s not true. Not even remotely.” TechDirt accepted that Ayyadurai was a “fairly bright kid” but also said none of his ideas were original.

“Basically, every feature that he put in the application was previously discussed on open mailing lists and RFCs about the internet and the messaging systems that would be grafted onto it,” TechDirt wrote, adding that being awarded a copyright was not the same as holding a patent.

TechDirt may not be surprised Ayyadurai has come after them. In November, Masnick mused, “I do wonder, though, if Ayyadurai continues to sue publications that properly point out that he is not telling the truth, and targets us.”

TechDirt is not alone in attempting to debunk Ayyadurai’s claim as the sole inventor of email. Critics have opposed the lawsuit as a danger to healthy debate on such issues.

Photo credit: Dennis Skley via Flickr