Facebook says its inspection of a computer belonging to a man who claims to have a contract that entitles him to half-ownership of the social-networking giant has turned up an "authentic contract" that does not mention Facebook.
Forensic analysis proves that the alleged 2003 contract between Paul Ceglia and Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was an "outright fabrication," Facebook said, asking that Ceglia's suit against Zuckerberg and Facebook be dismissed, according to a Facebook filing yesterday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York. The contract, which Facebook contends Ceglia was trying to conceal, was found embedded in electronic data from 2004 and refers only to StreetFax, a Web site Ceglia was trying to develop, Facebook said.
Facebook lawyers also complained that Ceglia had refused to supply documents covered by a discovery order in June and was "willfully concealing" six USB drives that contain relevant documents related to possible manipulation of the original contract.
"It is very likely that Ceglia used these removable devices to manipulate and store documents, including the purported Facebook contract, in the belief that this evidence would not be discovered or that the devices could easily be discarded if necessary, as Ceglia has now apparently done," Facebook lawyers said in their filing. "This is the digital equivalent of throwing critical evidence into Lake Erie."
Ceglia has reportedly relocated his family to Ireland as a result of the attention the case has attracted and could not be reached for comment. San Diego-based law firm Lake, which represents Ceglia in the case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, attorney Jeffrey Lake acknowledged in a filing with the court today that the StreetFax contract differs from the one previously admitted as evidence in the case but said his client has an explanation for why the two contracts differ. Lake did not indicate what that explanation might be.
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Ceglia claimed in a lawsuit filed last year against Facebook and its CEO and Zuckerberg that Zuckerberg entered into a contract with Ceglia in 2003 to design and develop the Web site that would ultimately become Facebook--a company now with an estimated value of more than $70 billion.
Ceglia has said he hired Zuckerberg through a Craigslist ad to write code for a project called StreetFax and paid Zuckerberg $1,000 for coding work; he also allegedly invested $1,000 in Zuckerberg's The Face Book project, which gave him a 50 percent interest in the company, as well as an additional 1 percent interest for every day after January 1, 2004, that The Face Book was delayed.
Zuckerberg and Facebook, which had previously called the alleged Facebook contract a "cut-and-paste job," filed a discovery motion in June for the original contract, e-mails in native form, and inspection of all computers in Ceglia's possession, as well as those in his parents' house.