His assertion, as you describe it to me, is not accurate
June 15, 2017 9:35 PM   Subscribe

Shiva Ayyadurai didn't invent email. But he's suing everyone who says otherwise.
posted by Chrysostom (26 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
His argument is based on a set of measurement so arcane you could use it to actually cast spells, and he keeps changing it when someone gets close.

This is basically the software equivalent of that guy who was the great football player in high school who you see when you go for the reunion and everyone wishes he'd just shut up and maybe find something in life closer to the present.
posted by mephron at 9:38 PM on June 15 [8 favorites]

As both a computer nerd and a copyright nerd, I find this whole fight fascinating. It's pretty clear to me that Ayyadurai is basically a crackpot, but it's also interesting that he's not trying to claim that his copyright over his email program gives him any rights to damages. He really just seems to want the personal recognition as part of his outsider narrative of one guy against the system.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:11 PM on June 15 [2 favorites]

Sorta though, I mean he sued for a fair bit of cash and won so it's not like it's all about recognition
posted by Carillon at 10:26 PM on June 15 [5 favorites]

True, I was thinking in terms of the copyright, but you're right, he has sued for cash under the defamation claims.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:27 PM on June 15

Lots of people invented email. Lots of people invented message boards. Lots of people invented blogging. Lots of people invented social networks. Lots of people invented calculus.

Western culture generally acknowledges standing on the shoulders of giants. But Western culture also generally assigns gianthood to the privileged elite who manage research labs instead of the diverse workers who carry out that research.

There's some fascinating psychology in the obsession over who gets to be the mascot.
posted by Phssthpok at 10:47 PM on June 15 [8 favorites]

For someone who claims to have invented email, he sure doesn't know the internet. Hasn't he heard of the Streisand effect ?
posted by Pendragon at 10:50 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]

I thought Al Gore invented email.
posted by AugustWest at 11:13 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]

Some select quotes:
“I was issued the first US copyright for EMAIL,” he said on The Alex Jones Show earlier this year. “I was officially recognized as the inventor of email.”


He also offers paid “Systems Health Workshops” regularly in the Boston area, which he has offered through Deepak Chopra’s “Center for Wellbeing.” He has a “clean food certification” company and a website that offers personality assessments for $50 if users send in a headshot to “face-reading experts.”


He has been an increasingly vocal Donald Trump supporter on Twitter since early 2016. He has adopted many of the online slurs against politicians that he disagrees with, including “Shillary” (Hillary Clinton) and “#FakeIndian” (Sen. Elizabeth Warren). [...] He even has a new book out: All-American Indian: The Battle to Save America from the Elites Who Think They Know Better.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 1:54 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]

So this guy's a dick is what we're saying.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 4:04 AM on June 16 [14 favorites]

Just looked at RFC821, posted August 1982 and it does not use the term "email". So technically he may have a point, which would be "first to copyright software with the specific term 'email'. " The explosion of electronic information commonly known as e-mail does not seem to be at all related to his work but he may have been first to copyright that specific word.
posted by sammyo at 5:08 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]

Yes, but as the article points out, the term was in use by 1981 thanks to CompuServe. So even his invention of the word "email" is questionable.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:26 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]

I'm not a lawyer, but I don't believe you can copyright a word. This document from the US Copyright office suggests the same.

He could have trademarked it, but that's something different.

It's pretty hazy to me what the copyright has to do with anything here-it doesn't do what seems to think it does, as far as being evidence of "inventing email". He copyrighted a program containing the word. He didn't trademark the word, didn't get a patent on the method, and clearly didn't invent the concept.

TLDR; yup, he's a dick.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:29 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]

I thought Al Gore invented email.

Every time someone says this I post this letter from Robert Khan and Vinton Cerf.

Please read it when you have a moment.
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:40 AM on June 16 [36 favorites]

GallonOfAlan: So this guy's a dick is what we're saying.

He's the INVENTOR of dick.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:09 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]

The part of this that's so absurd to me is the idea that email was "invented" in 1978, or 1982. Fortunately Ars does a great job here talking about the actual history, with email systems going back to the 1960s. That history is the interesting stuff, not some guy exploiting the US court system in the 2010s.
posted by Nelson at 7:24 AM on June 16

He should get together with Gene Simmons and hang out.
posted by Splunge at 8:14 AM on June 16

He was issued a copyright? This is something the copyright office doesn't do anymore, right? Like, yeah, you register a patent or a trademark, but my understanding was that copyright is just a legal right you automatically have when you author something, and the government doesn't actually adjudicate it except in the court system. Am I wrong? Was it different in the late seventies or whatever?
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 8:44 AM on June 16

You can register your copyright. It's not necessary to get copyright protection, that's automatic, but it gives you additional remedies if you later sue for infringement.
posted by mercredi at 9:25 AM on June 16

I think the big change in US copyright registration was 1978. Prior to then you were supposed to register anything you cared about; afterwards you could rely on automatic copyright and only register later if you needed to bring an infringement lawsuit.

As the article notes, the main thing Ayyadurai's copyright claim proves is his ownership of a specific piece of code that he wrote. I don't think anyone disputes he built an e-mail system then. But he's claiming that because he used the name EMAIL that means he invented all e-mail. Also the copyright filing helps him establish a date. Still baffled since the date is some 15 years after folks were regularly sending each other electronic mail.
posted by Nelson at 9:44 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by splitpeasoup at 11:57 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]

He's using the threat of bankrupting anyone who honestly reports on his delusional, masturbatory fantasy of importance--of course he's a Trumpist.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:16 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Thank you.
posted by Chitownfats at 8:53 AM on June 17

Wow, it's almost as if supporting trump is a litmus test for assholes...
posted by dazed_one at 11:51 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]

I'm mostly fascinated that Fran Drescher was married to this schmuck.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 2:58 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]

Imagine the most sitcommy record scratch spit take rewind W. T. F imaginable as I read that, cichlid ceilidh.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:44 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]

Actually I think we'll find he's the inventor of DICK, not the INVENTOR of dick.
posted by danhon at 10:00 PM on June 17

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