Howard LakeThe same lawyer who successfully sued Gawker Media over Hulk Hogan’s sex tape has now sued the online publisher again, this time representing the Massachusetts man who claims that he invented e-mail in 1978 at the age of 14.
On Tuesday, Charles Harder brought a libel suit on behalf of Shiva Ayyadurai, a man who has gone on a years-long campaign (seriously, his website is trying to convince the world that he, and he alone, invented e-mail.
Ayyadurai now demands $35 million from Gawker, Gizmodo’s parent company, and a public retraction to Gizmodo’s 2012 articles that convincingly reported: “Corruption, Lies, and Death Threats: The Crazy Story of the Man Who Pretended to Invent Email,” and “The Inventor of Email Did Not Invent Email?”
Months later, Boston Magazine reported that as a result, Ayyadurai’s “speaking engagements have been canceled, the funding for his EMAIL lab has evaporated, and his contract to lecture in MIT’s bioengineering department has been revoked.”
This fracas resurfaced in 2014 when Ayyadurai married Fran Drescher.
It came up again two months ago, immediately following the death of Ray Tomlinson, who is credited as having put the @ into e-mail messages and invented modern e-mail as we know it.

Ayyadurai e-mailed Ars a statement re-iterating this claim.
As he wrote and published on his own website:
The truth is, I invented email in 1978 when I was employed as a 14-year-old research fellow at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), located in Newark, New Jersey.
I had been assigned to create a software system that duplicated the features of the Interoffice Mail System, which was simply a manila envelope that physically circulated around a workplace.

The envelope contained the Interoffice Memo with Attachments, and comments from various recipients on a given topic.
I named my software “EMAIL,” (a term never used before in the English language), and I even received the first U.S.

Copyright for that software, officially recognizing me as The Inventor of Email, at a time when Copyright was the only way to recognize software inventions, since the U.S.
Supreme was not recognizing software patents.
However, as Gizmodo’s Sam Biddle aptly concluded in 2012: laying claim to the name of a product that’s the generic term for a universal technology gives you acres of weasel room.

But creating a type of airplane named AIRPLANE doesn’t make you Wilbur Wright.”
50,000 lines of code
Since the early days of the ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet itself, Requests for Comment (RFC) documents have detailed technical advances to the system’s underpinnings.

There are multiple RFCs that pre-date Ayyadurai’s 1978 claims, including #733, which specifically refers to “Standard for the Format of Text Messages,” which includes all formatting nomenclature that we still use today: “To,” “From,” “Subject,” “cc,” et cetera.
However, in an e-mail sent to Ars, Harder doubled down on his client’s claims.
“RFC 733 is a document, not software, drafted in November 1977,” the lawyer wrote. “It was, at best, a specification attempting to provide a standardization of messaging protocols and interfaces. RFC 733 was not ‘e-mail underpinnings’ as some have said, nor equated as e-mail: the electronic software system intended to emulate the interoffice, inter-organizational paper-based mail system, created by Dr.

Ayyadurai at UMDNJ in 1978.”
Harder further argues that Tomlinson’s work (his RFC #561 describes “network mail” in 1971) is too ancient to be considered proper e-mail.
“Ray Tomlinson modified a pre-existing program SNDMSG, which was a local user electronic ‘Post-It-Note’ system, using borrowed code from another pre-existing program CPYNET, a file transfer protocol, to allow a user on one computer to append text to a file on another computer,” Harder wrote.
“The user had to type in cryptic commands to even make this happen.
It’s the equivalent of a ‘caveman Reddit,’ and very different from the email system that people use today.


Ayyadurai wrote 50,000 lines of code to mirror the entire interoffice mail system—virtually the same system we use today; he named it ‘email;’ and he obtained the first U.S.

Copyright for the invention and name.”
Gawker spokesman David Goldin did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.
The Hogan case, meanwhile, is now on appeal.