Man claims 84 percent ownership of Facebook

A New York resident says in 2003 a $1000 investment in Facebook entitles him to own 84 percent of the social networking giant

A New York man has filed suit against Facebook claiming he owns 84 percent of the world's largest social network. Paul D. Ceglia, the man behind the lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, claims Facebook owes him damages relating to a 2003 contract between Ceglia and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The purported contract asked Ceglia to develop and design a Website "similar to a live functioning yearbook with the working title of 'The Face Book,'" according to the Wall Street Journal.

The contract reportedly states that Zuckerberg would pay Ceglia US$1000 plus 50 percent ownership in the company. Ceglia would also get an extra percentage point every month after January 1, 2004 until the work was completed.

One problem with Ceglia's claim that his contract dates back to 2003 is that Zuckerberg hadn't even registered Facebook's original domain, thefacebook.com, until January 11, 2004, according to journalist David Kirkpatrick's well-researched book, The Facebook Effect. However, Kirkpatrick's book does say that Zuckerberg started developing Facebook at some point between late 2003 and early 2004.

Although it's unclear how convincing Ceglia's purported evidence is, he has managed to have the judge hearing the case issue a temporary restraining order against the transfer of Facebook's assets.

Ceglia is no stranger to the New York court system or restraining orders himself, according to the Journal. In late, 2009 New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo issued a temporary restraining order against Ceglia's company, Allegany Pellets, LLC. Cuomo said the company had taken more than $200,000 in advance payments from customers, and promised to deliver 1,900 tons of wood pellets in the following months. The company, according to the Attorney General, failed to deliver any products or issue refunds to disgruntled customers. Wood pellets are a heating fuel typically made from compacted sawdust that can be used to heat homes. Allegany Pellets is no longer accepting orders on its Website.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook has called Ceglia's suit "frivolous," and plans to fight it out in court.

Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).

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Tags social mediainternetFacebookInternet-based applications and serviceslegal issues

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Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
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