In 2017, an engineer and entrepreneur sued Techdirt for criticising his claim to have invented email. Though a district court soon dismissed the lawsuit on First Amendment grounds, appeals and wrangling over lawyers' fees continued. The case finally settled this month, Techdirt reports: article stays up, no money changes hands.
It's a win for Techdirt and journalism, as all he got was a link to a response he could have added himself by signing up for a free commenting account. But that was the point: it was a SLAPP, a legal action the plaintiff knew he could not win, whose real purpose was to be so expensive and troublesome for the defendant to fight that they shut up or paid up. Mike Masnick writes that it doesn't feel like victory:
You may wonder how it could possibly take 18 months to negotiate a settlement about adding links to old articles — and, indeed, I wonder that myself. The entire process has been quite a pain for us. I cannot and would not describe this result as a victory, because this has been nearly two and a half years of wasted time, effort, resources, attention and money just to defend our right to report on a public figure and explain to the world that we do not believe his claims to have invented email are correct, based on reams of evidence.
During those 18 months, we stopped all the fundraising we had done around the lawsuit, as, for nearly all of that time, it did appear that a settlement was close, and we did not wish to mislead anyone into believing that we were raising money on the premise that our continued existence was in grave danger only to settle the case immediately after doing so. We did not, in any way, expect this process to drag out this long, and we now have significant legal and other bills that we still have to pay. We are glad the lawsuit is done, but we now need to ask for your support. If we are able to raise more than our bills, any excess will go towards our ongoing reporting. If you would prefer to support us in other ways — including via Patreon or in exchange for t-shirts and other merch, all the various options are available to check out here.