THE SOCIAL NETWORK Facebook has won court approval to gain access to computers, files and emails from Paul Ceglia, the man who claims to own 50 per cent of the company.
Ceglia has until 29 August to hand over the documents and computers, which Facebook believes will prove that Ceglia's claims to half of the company are untrue. Once they are in Facebook's possession it will have 30 days to review the materials, according to Reuters.
The court order issued by US Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio comes after Facebook claimed that Ceglia was withholding evidence that would likely prove that the contract he claims to have relates to a street-mapping web site and makes no mention of Facebook at all.
Ceglia supplied $1,000 funding as part of the startup work on Streetfax.com, but Ceglia claims the deal also involved Thefacebook.com, as it was called at the time.
Facebook claims that the contract Ceglia supplied as evidence, dated 2003, is a fabrication, and that the real evidence can be found on his computers and in his emails, where Facebook is never mentioned. Ceglia was reluctant to hand these over, but clearly the judge saw this evidence as potentially a deciding factor in whether or not he really owns any share in Facebook.
Facebook released its own version of the contract, which contradicts Ceglia's claims and makes no mention of the social network. If an identical version can be found in Ceglia's files it will likely blow the case wide open and bring an end to Ceglia's claims.
With Facebook valued at close to $70bn, according to Sharespost, Ceglia could be entitled to a very hefty windfall if he wins the case.
A major question, of course, is why he waited so long to take his share of the ownership if he really believed he was entitled to it. The answers to this and other questions raised by his lawsuit will likely be found in his files. µ