EMAILS SUPPOSEDLY SENT by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to Paul Ceglia have been leaked online and they look genuine, lending credence to Ceglia's claim to own half of the immensely successful social notworking website.
Ceglia updated his lawsuit to include email evidence that Facebook was partly his idea and that Zuckberberg signed a contract with him to give him 50 per cent ownership after Ceglia made a $2,000 investment in the project, following a prior $1,000 payment for Zuckberberg's coding work on Ceglia's Streetfax.com project.
In one email obtained by Business Insider, dated 30 July, 2003, Zuckerberg is reported as having written, "I'd like to use [the StreetFax search engine] for the Harvard site [Facebook], I think it will really help people find each other, even if they spell names incorrectly. Would it be agreeable with you if I adapt the source code?"
Another email from 2 September, 2003, highlights Zuckerberg's plans to make money from Facebook with a plan "to charge Alumni $29.95 a month. With this in mind, considering just 300 people, and a projection of a $9,000 monthly revenue, we could, as you suggested, rapidly expand to other colleges." He also wrote that the facebook.com and pagebook.com domains were taken, leaving thefacebook.com as an option, which he labelled as "not a premium quality domain".
On 22 November, 2003, Zuckerberg allegedly wrote, "I have recently met with a couple of upperclassmen here at Harvard that are planning to launch a site very similar to ours. If we don't make a move soon, I think we will lose the advantage we would have if we release before them." He then asked for a further $1,000 to get help with integrating the search code into the website.
A further email on 1 January, 2004 reveals Zuckerberg asking for additional funding, along with "a written waiver ... exempting me from the obligation to give you additional ownership of the project that is outlined in our original contract." This relates to a clause where Ceglia would get an extra one per cent share for each day that the launch was delayed, a claim he later dropped.
Subsequent email exchanges became more tense, as Ceglia refused to provide a waiver and asked why Zuckerberg was seeking more money. It escalated to the point where the website was still not live by 5 January, resulting in Ceglia threatening to tell the college or Zuckerberg's parents about "whats (sic) been going on". Zuckerberg responded the next day, calling Ceglia's threats unprofessional and pleading with him not to contact his parents.
Their relationship improved slightly in early February, 2004 when Ceglia dropped his claim to additional ownership on the basis of a late penalty, which Zuckerberg described as "unfair". On 4 February the site went live, and Ceglia emailed Zuckerberg to congratulate him. He wanted to drop the definite article from the domain to make it just facebook.com and sell merchandising on it, but Zuckerberg said, "I don't care about making any money on it right now."
The friendship soured further over subsequent weeks and months until in April, Zuckerberg apparently wrote that he might close the website and would pay Ceglia back his $2,000 investment, a refund that Ceglia claims he never received.
The email exchange is detailed and shows the gradual decline in Zuckerberg and Ceglia's relationship. While it is possible that it has been forged, what we have seen so far appears genuine. If the courts agree with this assessment then Zuckerberg could lose a substantial share of his social notworking empire. µ
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