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Facebook gets sued, again

Posted by: Laurence Simons 23/06/12

If you're in the legal sector, you'll know this story by heart now: in 2004, in a dingy Harvard dorm room littered with unbranded energy drink cans, Mark Zuckerberg sat down and noodled with the code that would eventually become the world's leading drunken photograph depository, or 'Facebook'. Storm clouds gathered. Winds galed. In a stroke, Zuckerberg had set himself up to become a billionaire. And, simultaneously, about a hundred other people did the exact same thing.

Well, that's according to 'every legal case that has come to court in the past eight years, apparently'. First and most famously, Winklevoss twins Cameron and Tyler made a claim for the genesis of the website, eventually settling and being portrayed handsomely on film as a result. Co-founder Eduardo Saverin has had a legal wrangle with the Zuckerberg, before Paul Ceglia claimed he bought the website for $1,000. Even before this year's initial IPO offering, former search engine giant Yahoo! filed for ten breaches of privacy control and advertising patents. And now, Aaron Greenspan is having a go.

Who is Aaron Greenspan? According to Aaron Greenspan, he's the guy who should have been centre stage in The Social Network. Greenspan is filing suit that, as a classmate of Zuckerberg and developer of a similar network to Facebook way back in the day, his not being included in the Oscar-winning movie was "defamation by omission".

Greenspan's case - dismissed instantly by a Massachusetts federal judge - isn't just frivolity, though. Having already settled a trademark dispute with Facebook in '09, Greenspan is making a rightful plea to be noted for his part in the development of the social networking behemoth. While his case drags on - he has already appealed to the First Circuit - it is throwing up a number of interesting business law discussions, not least, according to Above the Law, the differences between legal and illegal copying in authorship. Takeaway lesson from all this: if you're going to found a multi-billion dollar website while you're still in college, document every moment of it.