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The Courts

Judge Dismisses 'Inventor of Email' Lawsuit Against Techdirt (arstechnica.com) 127

A federal judge in Massachusetts has dismissed a libel lawsuit filed earlier this year against tech news website Techdirt. From a report: The claim was brought by Shiva Ayyadurai, who has controversially claimed that he invented e-mail in the late 1970s. Techdirt (and its founder and CEO, Mike Masnick) has been a longtime critic of Ayyadurai and institutions that have bought into his claims. "How The Guy Who Didn't Invent Email Got Memorialized In The Press & The Smithsonian As The Inventor Of Email," reads one Techdirt headline from 2012. One of Techdirt's commenters dubbed Ayyadurai a "liar" and a "charlatan," which partially fueled Ayyadurai's January 2017 libel lawsuit. In the Wednesday ruling, US District Judge F. Dennis Saylor found that because it is impossible to define precisely and specifically what e-mail is, Ayyadurai's "claim is incapable of being proved true or false."
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Judge Dismisses 'Inventor of Email' Lawsuit Against Techdirt

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    a mechanism to send canned pork products electronically.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When did UUCP get store and forward messaging ?
    When did DECnet get mail support ?

    • I think UUCP ended up being developed in the early eighties, but that's besides the point: email doesn't necessarily have to leave a machine to be email. I find it hard to believe that, for example, MULTICS, which was designed by telephone companies in the 1960s as a massively multiuser operating system, didn't have an interuser messaging feature, whether it was called "mail" or something else.

      One day I'll have to download MULTICS and take a look at it. Supposedly it's the most influential operating syst

      • You are mistaken. I used MULTICS at MIT, and there was instant messaging. I had very little knowledge of the system, but messages from another user did show up on my terminal, and I had no idea how to block them or reply.
        • Are you saying there was an email analog or there wasn't? Sorry, it's not clear from your comment ("You are mistaken" vs "there was instant messaging")
        • In 1981, MULTICS had e-mail which was separate from the instant messages. It was not limited to that machine, because I had to enable it for one of my students who used it to e-mail someone on another MULTICS system in Phoenix.

          • MULTICS had email in 1965. It was written by Noel Morris and Tom Van Vleck, though it was designed a little earlier [multicians.org]. The credit for coming up with the idea usually goes to Glenda Schroeder.

      • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Thursday September 07, 2017 @11:09AM (#55153359)
        RFC 561 [ietf.org] called for standardizing mail headers 5 years before Ayyadurai claimed he invented it. While email has never formally defined when it was first used in the 1960s, the different standards slowly evolved. This is why it's hard to pin down when or who invented email as it slowly became what it is with many refinements and contributors. Back then different computer systems used different protocols, etc.
      • It is fascinating to go back and read about early computers - many of the things we take for granted today are things that at one time people had to sweat over and figure out. Things like interrupts and stacks. I used Multics many years ago. My recollection is that it is over-designed and quite complicated. Originally designed to run on expensive hardware. Unix was designed to run on what at the time was less expensive hardware (PDP 7 and then PDP 11).
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...Since it was actually I who invented email.

    • no, Sparticus invented email! And me.
      • by GlennC ( 96879 )

        no, I invented email, and so did my wife!

        • Poppycock! Everyone knows that Robert E. Lee invented email during "The War of Northern Aggression". It was based on a radical new cotton gin design and powered by 14 Confederate I.T. officers. Each Confederate ranking officer had one set up behind him at every major battle. It's all covered in great detail on the statues everyone is tearing down these days...
        • Morgan Fairchild?

    • ...Since it was actually I who invented email.

      But you could not have done it without me, who invented the computer, and I'll sue anyone who denies it.

  • by wardrich86 ( 4092007 ) on Thursday September 07, 2017 @10:23AM (#55153111)
    For anybody interested, and for some Streisand-Effecting, here is the article in question: How The Guy Who Didn't Invent Email Got Memorialized In The Press & The Smithsonian As The Inventor Of Email [techdirt.com].

    Enjoy!
    • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Thursday September 07, 2017 @10:52AM (#55153259)
      His claims were always far-fetched. Correctly he claims a copyright over a program called "EMAIL", however that does not mean he invented email itself which predates him by over a decade. In fact RFC 561 [ietf.org] outlines standards for email headers 5 years before his program. As an analogy it would be like Microsoft claiming they invented spreadsheets because they came out with Excel. Lotus Corp and many others would dispute that claim.
      • Guy: I invented MAIL!
        Mayor: Shenanigans! We've had mail for YEARS!
        Guy:Ah, but see, my envelopes are longer and brown
        Village: [unanimously] Ohhhhhhhhh
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        '561 is a great example of technical debt and the inevitability of code marked *** FIX LATER *** never being fixed.

        Although the long-term solution to the problem is probably to
        add commands for specifying such information to the mail
        protocol command space (as suggested in RFC 524 -- 17140,), we
        hereby propose a more quickly implemented solution for the
        interim.

        • You do know what "RFC" stands for right?
          • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

            You do know what "RFC" stands for right?

            Duh! Everyone knows that it stands for Really Fucking Cockward.

      • His claims were always far-fetched. Correctly he claims a copyright over a program called "EMAIL", however that does not mean he invented email itself

        So it's like Cheverolet claiming he invented the Cheverolet; except hardly anyone ever used or heard of "EMAIL".

        • So it's like Cheverolet claiming he invented the Cheverolet; except hardly anyone ever used or heard of "EMAIL".

          The history [multicians.org] of the internet [nethistory.info] disagrees with you. If by "hardly anyone" you mean the thousands of users of ARAPNET [wikipedia.org] which spanned the US with hundreds of servers by the time this so-called person "invented" email. "In 1971, Ray Tomlinson, of BBN sent the first network e-mail (RFC 524, RFC 561).[57] By 1973, e-mail constituted 75 percent of ARPANET traffic."

          • The history of the internet disagrees with you

            You have missed my point. I wrote "EMAIL" not "email ". EMAIL (with capitals) is this liar Ayyadurai's creation (maybe) in 1978, and he claims that all email (lower case) originated with EMAIL (capitals). As you say, he's talking bollocks because ARAPNET and other entities were using email long before 1978.

          • It sounds like GP was talking about EMAIL the program not being widely used, not email the protocol.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday September 07, 2017 @10:24AM (#55153113) Homepage Journal

    What's tricky is defining "invention".

    • It's easy to define what email is now. But back in the early days different systems had different features. Do you consider it email if you can only send it within the local network and not over the multiple, different networks? Do you consider it email if can only handle basic ASCII (128 characters) as this means it was English only? Do you consider it email if you can't attach something? Do you consider it email if you can't forward the message? etc. Depending on the system back when email was first being
      • by swb ( 14022 )

        I think some of that is splitting hairs, I think you could reasonably define email as an electronic messaging system allowing users to exchange private messages asynchronously.

        Everything after that is a feature -- attachments, character sets, network reach. etc. Most BBS systems in the 1980s reasonably referred to their private messaging systems as electronic mail.

        • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Thursday September 07, 2017 @12:53PM (#55154041)
          From the ruling [documentcloud.org]

          Plaintiff defines "e-mail” to include features such as an inbox, outbox, folders, a “to:” line, a “from:” line, a “subject:” line, the body of the message and the ability to include attachments, and the ability to copy (“cc”) or blind copy (“bcc”) other recipients. (See Compl. 13). However, that is not the only definition. For example, the online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “e-mail” in far more general terms as “a means or system for transmitting messages electronically (as between two computers on a network.” E-mail, MERRIAM-WEBSTER, https://www.merriamwebster.com... [merriamwebster.com] (last visited Aug. 31, 2017). Similarly, in the context of a patent dispute, the Federal Circuit has held that “a person of ordinary skill in the art would have recognized that an electronic mail message must include a destination address and must have the capacity to include an address of an originating processor, message content (such as text or an attachment), and a subject.” In re NTP, Inc., 654 F.3d 1279, 1289 (Fed. Cir. 2011). Accordingly, whether plaintiff’s claim to have invented e-mail is “fake” depends upon the operative definition of “e-mail.” Because that definition does not have a single, objectively correct answer, the claim is incapable of being proved true or false.

          Given that most messaging systems prior to any formalized RFCs would fall under some sort of "email" designation, it would be hard to prove that they are in fact the original "email" that was invented. What is clear would be that the plaintiff would not be the first.

        • >I think you could reasonably define email as an electronic messaging system allowing users to exchange private messages asynchronously.

          I think that's a pretty good working definition. The name itself - 'email' is obviously short for 'electronic mail', which is obviously meant to invoke an electronic replacement for the standard postal letter.

          And it's just a name. Maybe somebody was calling it 'email' back when I was sending messages across FidoNet, but it doesn't matter. Setting the standard (which t

        • With USENET there was a lot of jury rigging of email systems together. A BBS could indeed send email to other systems on the other side of the country even if they had not been originally designed to do so. Though crude, this store and forward system was what really got networks interacting with each other.

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )

        I would suggest that email is any text-based electronic message which is composed to be specifically addressed either to one or more particular people, or else to an organization or particular representatives of that organization, where the addressee receives the electronic message in its digital form, as opposed to a telegram, where a third party collects the transmission and prints it for the addressee.

        Graphics and other media are possible in email because even though the message contains non-textual e

    • Go on. Define email.

      Given that it was an evolution of a continued set of RFCs and standards that slowly and gradually became what you call an email when you send it today, I'm keen to see if you can define an email as something unique that actually correctly incorporates the history that went into its making.

      Tip: No one invented email.

  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Thursday September 07, 2017 @10:32AM (#55153149)
    For copyright infringement on the use of the word "Spam".
    • by Anonymous Coward
      That's trademark infringement, you insensitive clod!
  • trademark / Patent / Copyright trolls must die and loser pays as well.

  • "E-mail" is not a hard term to define. It's just "electronic mail". You can split email into "local on one computer" and "distributed across a network", since those were created separately, but it really isn't that complicated. There really is something called "truth", it'd be nice to acknowledge that sometimes.
    • In the context of the ruling the judge is saying that email factually has existed since the 1960s in different forms and standards. It wasn't until later decades that formalized definitions and protocols were adopted so that different systems could communicate with each other. So who invented it decades ago is hard to pin down because different communication methods could be considered "email" back then because there were no standards to agree what it was. See the history of email [wikipedia.org]

      "These original messaging s

      • who invented it decades ago is hard to pin down because different communication methods could be considered "email" back then because there were no standards to agree what it was.

        So what? The standard for patentability is supposed to be manifold, and based both upon obviousness, and on public knowledge. Someone who creates a formalized, standards-based messaging program hasn't invented messaging, nor come up with the idea, if there were literally dozens of preexisting systems.

        • So what? The standard for patentability is supposed to be manifold, and based both upon obviousness, and on public knowledge. Someone who creates a formalized, standards-based messaging program hasn't invented messaging, nor come up with the idea, if there were literally dozens of preexisting systems.

          And how does your statement addresses the OP's point that "email" is easy to define? The judge in the case ruled that it wasn't easy to define as there were no standards as to what it was. Thus the ruling states it is legally impossible to prove the plaintiff "invented" email when no one can agree on what was defined as email back then. Judge Saylor does not need to rule on whether the claim that he invented it is true. As part of the libel lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that the statements made by the d

  • Slashdot broke the news over a decade ago that only elderly South Koreans use email [slashdot.org]
  • RFCs from 1973 (Score:4, Informative)

    by ardmhacha ( 192482 ) on Thursday September 07, 2017 @10:56AM (#55153275)

    https://tools.ietf.org/html/rf... [ietf.org]

    Network Working Group J. White
    Request for Comments: 524 SRI-ARC
    NIC: 17140 13 June 1973

      A Proposed Mail Protocol
    AUTHOR'S INTENT
      This is the document I offered in (15146,) to write. It's a proposed
      specification for handling mail in the Network -- a Mail Protocol....

    https://tools.ietf.org/html/rf... [ietf.org]

      RFC # 561 Abhay Bhushan (AKB) MIT-DMCG
      NIC # 18516 Ken Pogran (KP) MIT-MULTICS
      Ray Tomlinson (RST) BBN-TENEX
      Jim White (JEW) SRI-ARC
      5 September 73
      Standardizing Network Mail Headers
      One of the deficiences of the current FTP mail protocol is that
      it makes no provision for the explicit specification of such
      header information as author, title, and date. Many systems
      send that information, but each in a different format. One
      fairly serious result of this lack of standardization is that
      it's next to impossible for a system or user program to
      intelligently process incoming mail.

  • Al Gore should totally sue this guy.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why?

      Kahn and Cerf detailed Gore's contribution back when this absurd meme first appeared:

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2000/10/02/net_builders_kahn_cerf_recognise/

      If you don't know who they are look them up.

  • India.

    So all the H-1B Sumdogs owe me 10% of their salary. Pay up or be sued.

  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Thursday September 07, 2017 @02:00PM (#55154405) Homepage Journal

    The PLATO [wikipedia.org] systems were using email, instant messaging, chat rooms, and blogs in the mid 70s (1976 for e-mail).

    Along with, not much later, plasma display terminals and minimal graphics, a rudimentary GUI, and all of this getting leveraged not only for instructional courseware but games, games, games... I still play one...

    Some of PLATO was shown to some guys from Xerox PARC. They knew what to do. Don Bitzer was so far ahead of the possible technology even money could not have helped. Ayyadurai should be spanked and sent to bed.

  • While I'd love to jump on the "he didn't invent e-mail" bandwagon, I have to agree with the judge on this one.

    The term 'email' doesn't represent one particular thing. It isn’t a brand or trademark, and is just a shortened term for ‘electronic mail’. What we know email today is just a collection of standards and protocols. It is possible to call other implementations email, and for that to still be valid. Shiva Ayyadurai invented an implementation of email, but his implementation was indepe

  • It is mail, sent electronically as a data transmission. STOP It was invented before the pitiful asshole was born. STOP Just fucking. STOP
  • Long before there WAS an internet; you sent "electronic mail" via Fidonet.
    The invention of email was evolved in the public domain software community.

Evolution is a million line computer program falling into place by accident.

Working...