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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Facebook Challenger|Has to Return Stateside

(CN) - The Ireland-dwelling New Yorker who claims he paid Mark Zuckerberg $1,000 in 2003 for a 50 percent interest in Facebook must head back to the United States and cough up electronic evidence, a Buffalo federal judge ruled.

Paul Ceglia filed his original 14-page complaint in Allegany County on June 30, 2010.

That 14-page filing says $1,000 bought Ceglia a 50 percent interest in Mark Zuckerberg's project The Face Book, also referred to as The Page Book, to be launched on Jan. 1, 2004, plus another 1 percent for each day the launch was delayed. Since the finished site went up on Feb. 4, 2004, Ceglia's interest rose to 84 percent, according to Ceglia's original complaint.

The original complaint includes a work-for-hire contract dated April 28, 2003, that bears Zuckerberg's alleged signature.

In his amended complaint, Ceglia says he consented to limit his interest to 50 percent after Zuckerberg complained. "Perhaps not coincidentally, the very next day, on February 4, 2004, Zuckerberg informed Ceglia by email that the 'thefacebook.com' website had launched," according to the amended complaint.

"Zuckerberg then embarked upon a secret scheme to misappropriate the general partnership's assets and opportunities for himself," it continues. Ceglia goes on to claim that "Zuckerberg did this by concealing the website's success from Ceglia and misrepresenting to Ceglia that Harvard students were not interested in the website, that he was losing interest in the venture and was considering abandoning it."

As for the start of their partnership, Ceglia says the two met when Zuckerberg answered an ad that he placed with Craigslist in search of programmers to help with the website project StreetFax.com - work that he paid Zuckerberg $1,000 to complete. Ceglia's amended complaint includes emails in which he and Zuckerberg appear to hash out the details of the two projects.

Since the alleged deals, The Face Book has evolved into Facebook Inc., which Ceglia has named as a defendant along with Zuckerberg.

Ceglia is suing for declaratory relief, breach of fiduciary duty, constructive and actual fraud, breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

Ceglia reportedly took off for Ireland in September. "His departure came shortly after Facebook's attorneys produced evidence that appeared to show the purported contract was a forgery," according to the Guardian's digital blog, PaidContent.org.

With the case removed to the Western District of New York, U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio granted the defendants' third motion to compel on Thursday.

Foschio ordered Ceglia back to the United States to produce six specific USB devices. The judge also permitted the defendants to issue a subpoena for information regarding Ceglia's Adelphia email account.

"Over the course of a lawsuit, which has attracted international headlines, Ceglia has been through a revolving door of lawyers including an upscale New York firm to, more recently, a small town attorney who has been sanctioned for creating child pornography," PaidContent reports.

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