If True, the Ceglia Case Could Rewrite Part of Facebook’s Early History

The first few years of Facebook’s existence has already been closely scrutinized in court and in the media. This fall, there’s even a feature-length movie coming out about one version. The common theme is that, during late 2003 and early 2004, founder Mark Zuckerberg was both working on his own Facebook precursor sites while talking or even working with rivals. But now all of those stories could be getting updated, if claims in a new court case against Facebook turn out to be true.

During his sophomore year at Harvard, in late 2003, Zuckerberg became famous for launching a site called Facemash. A college version of Hot or Not, it scraped students’ names and photos from university sources, then asked students to rank each others’ photos for attractiveness.

Aaron Greenspan, meanwhile, had launched a student web portal of sorts called houseSYSTEM, that he says he discussed with Zuckerberg in great detail over the course of the fall. By the end of the year, Zuckerberg was also doing contract work for HarvardConnection, a site intended to serve as a student portal, per an oral contract agreement. Greenspan has up to this point laid claim to the earliest date, having launched his houseSYSTEM site on August 1st of that year.

The new court case implies that Zuckerberg was actually working on “The Face Book” back in the spring of 2003, apparently before any of the others.

A wood-pellet company owner named Paul Ceglia is suing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in New York federal court, claiming that the two had an agreement whereby Ceglia would get a large ownership portion of a Zuckerberg project called “The Face Book.” The two signed the agreement on April 28, 2003.

Ceglia was a designer at the time, looking for Zuckerberg’s help on a separate project, and happened to sign on for a good chunk of Facebook stock as part of a contractor agreement. Or so the story went in New York today, as Bloomberg reports:

[Ceglia lawyer Terrence Connors] told the judge that Ceglia was a Web designer trying to develop a project called “StreetFax” in the spring of 2003. Ceglia’s plan was to put millions of photos of streets into a database and charge insurers money to access it.

“What he needed was a coder,” Connors told the judge.

Ceglia solicited bids to do the work. The lowest bidder was Zuckerberg, then a Harvard freshman. Zuckerberg said he would do the job for $1,000, Connors said.

“But I’ve got a project of my own,” Connors said Zuckerberg told his client. “I’m developing an online yearbook for Harvard kids now, but I’m thinking of expanding it.”

The contract was intended to cover the coding work on StreetFax and Ceglia’s investment in Zuckerberg’s “fledgling project,” Connors said. “Who knew then that it would turn into what it is today?”

VentureBeat has taken a closer look at the documents submitted by Ceglia. Although riddled with typos, and in parts not clearly phrased — it refers to Ceglia being granted ownership of the software language that Zuckerberg was to use, for example, rather than the code — it would give him most of Facebook’s shares. From VentureBeat:

The contract itself says that Ceglia agreed to pay Zuckerberg $1,000 for StreetFax and $1,000 for another project called PageBook. The contract also mentions an expanded project called The Facebook to be completed by January 2004, saying “an additional 1% interest in the business will be due the buyer for each day the website is delayed from that date.”

Ceglia attached a $1,000 receipt from his checkbook, dated six months after the contract, as evidence that he paid Zuckerberg for his work. But it wasn’t the full $2,000 amount and the agreement doesn’t describe what happens if there is a default.

Facebook, for its part, has not yet completely denied the specific claims. In court, one of the company’s lawyers confirmed that Zuckerberg did have a contract with Ceglia, but also said that there are “many substantial questions surrounding the authenticity” of the particular document provided by Ceglia, and was “unsure” such as whether Zuckerberg had actually signed it.

The company’s general statement on Ceglia’s claim sounds confident, in any case: “We believe this suit is completely frivolous and we will fight it vigorously.”

Whether or not the document is real, Ceglia’s case has other problems, beyond some of vague phrasing. For example,  his claim is more than six years old, seemingly disqualifying it under New York’s statute of limitations. And his document oddly has Zuckerberg using the term “Facebook” nine months before Zuckerberg actively began using the term. Legal experts have noted both as major issues. And Ceglia himself has been in trouble with the law recently, getting arrested for failure to fulfill wood pellet orders after having taken their money — maybe he was just having business problems, but the timing makes his Facebook suit (and character) look more suspicious.

Given the many frivolous lawsuits brought against major companies, only to be summarily dismissed, one wouldn’t be surprised to see the judge relegate Ceglia’s claims to the same category. But if the document does somehow turn out to be authentic, Facebook’s legal team will no doubt contest its language, the time-lapse, and anything else it can find, and look for a quick settlement. We have a hard time seeing Ceglia’s desired outcome — 84% ownership of Facebook — ever happening.

And, if the claim is found true, there’s another twist coming: the Harvard Connection (now ConnectU) team and Greenspan will need to explain how Zuckerberg was working on his idea many months before they say he stole it from them. Sure, ConnectU’s long-running lawsuit is mostly done, and Greenspan has moved on to other projects, but ConnectU’s version of events appears slated for a retelling in The Social Network, the new movie coming out on October 1st of this year. The new headlines about the Celia case — which, to our knowledge is not addressed in the movie — might confuse the movie’s plot, or at least its audiences.

If Ceglia’s case turns out to be somewhat true, but not true enough to give Ceglia anything like the stock he wants, the result could be an odd sort of public relations win for Facebook.

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2 Responses to “If True, the Ceglia Case Could Rewrite Part of Facebook’s Early History”

  1. newbedave says:

    It all started in the year 2003 when I was logged in to the Harvard website, where I was listening in to the conversations of the Harvard students. One of these students was Mark Zuckerberg who was talking about Face Smash and he had just broken up with his girlfriend at the time, so I struck up a conversation with this Mark Zuckerberg. He was talking about creating a dating site. I thought this was a bit odd – a pie in the sky idea since he had just broken up with his girlfriend and he was slagging her off – calling her a bitch and a whore.
    dave talked to Mark about the idea, and suggested he call it Face Mash. He was intrigued with my suggestion and thought it was a good idea. Mark wanted to call it Face Smash, because he wanted to smash his ex in the face. I convinced him that Face Mash was a good idea and he agreed, but one week later he changed his mind and wanted to call it Face Smash. When I queried him about this he replied ‘f…. off you c…- I’m calling it Face Smash’. Two weeks after this conversation he came up with the name Mashable and when I asked him why he chose the word Mashable instead of Face Mash he said ‘f,…off you bastard, Face mash is not your idea’. So I re-posted the conversations we had two weeks earlier and he had to apologise and said he was going with Mashable. I took this as a sign that he wanted to throw me off the scent and take the site for himself.
    dave found the character of Mark Zuckerberg to be deceptive and dishonest and ended conversing with Mark Zuckerberg because of his dishonesty and lack of integrity.
    After this dave started conversing with Dustin and Chris about an idea of mine called Facebook for an online service where students can post pictures and information on themselves and use it as a directory. They were very intrigued by my idea and wanted to know more.
    dave told them that in the beginning, it would be an online service just for Harvard students, and then spreading through the other campuses in America, joining them up together. The idea was to make it easy for people to connect with other university students so they could get an idea of what other campuses were like, and even eventually spreading through the general public, giving them an idea of what was offered at the different campuses.
    Dustin and Chris were very intrigued with my idea and said they wanted to be on board.
    dave talked extensively about my ideas of Facebook and went into great detail of how to get it set up and started. They queried about the finance of setting it up and I told them I was in contact with Tony Robbins, who was interested by the idea and we were having discussions regarding his financial backing of the project
    dave made contact with paul ceglia and was in discussion about a platform for the idea the facebook but zuckerberg found out and the cat and mouse game was on zuckerberg under cut dave but dave was not upset about this because if zuckerberg was going steal this it was going to bite back and yes payback is a bitch LOL

    dave kept in touch with Dustin and Chris and told them that I suspected what was going on.
    dave then found another contact at Harvard, called Eduardo Saverin and invited him to join me in developing my idea, and also to find out what was going on between Dustin, Chris and Mark, who were room mates. Eduardo was the odd person out.
    dave started to receive more emails from (supposedly) Mark, Dustin and Chris saying they were no longer interested in my project and said they had other ideas to pursue, which was untrue (as it has turned out

    Another interesting person dave made contact with was Sean Parker.
    At the time, he was running an online site called Napstar, and he was also working on another site called Wired Hog (where one could upload or download stuff and he had a copyrighted program to be able to do all this) and this is why I also invited him to join my project, as he had the program we needed.
    Sean wanted 55% ownership of the project for his input so dave told him this was unacceptable and then he turned round and told Mark Zuckerberg had made him a better offer. dave told him that Mark did not own the idea of Facebook.
    He then got smart and asked me if dave knew what emails were and whether I could produce any evidence. dave took this as an attempt to see whether I could prove everything that took place and for him to use this as a weapon to see if he could gouge out as much interest in Facebook as he could, and he tried to play me off against Zuckerberg to get the maximum holdings of Facebook. I received an email from Parker saying that Zuckerberg had offered him 5% and was I interested in offering him more. At this point, I told him to **** off and that Facebook was not Zuckerberg’s idea.
    dave then told Dustin and Chris that dave was no longer interested in pursuing developing the site with them and dave would go elsewhere to do it.
    dave found a site at Harvard called Harvard Connect (later, in 2004 changed to Harvard Connect To You) run by Cameron and Taylor Winklevoss, and dave explained everything about Facebook and the dealings with Zuckerberg, Dustin and Chris and how dave believed that Zuckerberg was in the process of stealing david idea, and Idave asked if the Winklevosses were interested in running Facebook on the Harvard site.
    They expressed enthusiasm in the offer and liked the idea of running the site as they liked the concept of Facebook.
    They told me that they were going to change their site name and redesign it at that time (to Harvard Connect To You).
    The person they called in to help them redesign their site was Mark Zuckerberg who then stole their platform

    U see zuckerberg got this guy to recommend him to the winklevoss and zuck stole the platform but not the idea zuck had stolen the idea from dave zuckerberg was not interested in facebook when he agreed to the contract with ceglia only the money it was the same when zuck spent eduardo saverin money and spat in his face your best friend

    Yes you did sign a contract zuckerberg In a email zuckerberg called paul ceglia a dum fuck sucker in 2003 i posted a copy to the crimsin post and the rumour spread that zuckerberg sign the contract so thank you for that

    dave then went to Aaron Greenspan who was running house systems at Harvard and asked him (under an email non disclosure agreement) to run Facebook on his site which he agreed to do. aaron greenspan used the (info) to extort financal money out of facebook and zuckerberg paid the extortion money and dave call it extortion U see zuckerberg new aaron greenspan new zuck had stolen the idea facebook .I sent all the emails copy to aaron greenspan

    David Kirkpatrick, (who is the author of the upcoming book ‘the Facebook Effect) -dave
    made contact and sent him copies of the relevant emails and gave him the full story of how Zuckerberg stole Facebook YES MADOFF IS VERY PROUD of you kirkpatrick (slap)

    And the people who concealed the truth are zuck dustin moskovilz sean parker and lisa simpson of the law form orrick
    U see there was a vid where zuckerberg said that dave gave him the idea facebook there were 2 disc one with a reporter and one to the FBI
    lisa simpson got a cout order to get the 2 discs but on returning the disc had defile the sound of the disc to cover up that zucerberg had stolen the idea facebook

    THE FBI .there was a FAKE CONNECT 2U account filled with FAKE information I log a complaint to the FBI in 2004 on mark zucerberg the fbi got sent all the email i had to mark dustin &cris.. and to the crimsin post i sent a copy to them and the rumour started
    Yes you did sign a contract zuckerberg In a email zuckerberg called paul ceglia a dum fuck sucker in 2003 i posted a copy to the crimsin post and the rumour spread that zuckerberg sign the contract
    Zuckerberg stole the idea facebook this is the reason zuckerberg sign the contract to stop dave who was in contact with ceglia
    zuckerberg undercut dave to steal the idea and for the money and your accomplice in this was dustin and no zuckerberg i did not say you can have facebook you thief and dave posted a copy of the emails to ben mezrick and to david kirkpatrjck
    as for kirkpatrick your book is a joke and so are you

    zuckerberg sign the contract and winklevoss will have to pay all that money back and you to aaron greenspan
    dave went to Aaron Greenspan who was running house systems at Harvard and asked him (under an email non disclosure agreement) to run Facebook on his site which he agreed to do. aaron greenspan used the (info) to extort financal money out of facebook and zuckerberg paid the extortion money and dave call it extortion U see zuckerberg new aaron greenspan new zuck had stolen the idea facebook .I sent all the emails copy to aaron greenspan
    And paul ceglia now the full truth about how zuckerberg stole facebook

  2. newbedave says:

    Even LARRY SUMMERS new the full truth about how zuckerberg stole facebook you see when the winklevoss contact summers about zuckerberg summers new that the idea facebook was david idea and dave contact the winkleoss about the idea facebook

    David then made contact with Paul A Argentieri law and sent all the email contact with the aaron greenspan zuckerberg Dustin and Chris and tayer cameron winklevoss .ben mezrick david kirkpatrick
    David then transfer the email to Jason Zushman can be contacted at 204-896-7777 Merchant Law Group offices in Montreal, Toronto for the full story

    Wy didnt you tell the truth about how zuckerberg stole the idea facebook .chris in the last email to dave you said you cannot and the offer of cash payment to dave .was repulsive and was rejected and it looks like paul caglia is to takeover facebook you remember paul caglia chris ?

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