Appeals court rejects man's claim he owns half of Facebook

A U.S. appeals court sided with a lower court's decision against Paul Ceglia

Paul Ceglia, who for years has claimed to own 50 percent of Facebook, was denied a bid to revive his case against the company in a U.S. appeals court on Monday.

Ceglia filed suit against Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2010, claiming he was entitled to the ownership stake on the basis of a 2003 "Work for Hire" contract. Zuckerberg had done programming work for Ceglia's company, StreetFax.com. After a federal district court dismissed his ownership claim last year, Ceglia appealed that ruling to a circuit court in New York.

On Monday, the appeals court affirmed the earlier ruling, calling the Work for Hire document a forgery. The court called Ceglia's arguments meritless and said he has "repeatedly demonstrated total disregard for our judicial system."

The court said it lacked evidence the contract was real and had evidence that it wasn't.

"The record contains no master electronic copy of the Work for Hire document, as might be expected if it were authentic, but rather, reflects multiple similar documents that appear to be test forgeries," the ruling said. Plus, the discovery of the real StreetFax contract signed by Ceglia and Zuckerberg "puts the lie to Ceglia's claim," the ruling said.

The fact that Ceglia didn't sue Facebook for seven years "belies common sense," the ruling said. The fact that the movie "The Social Network," about another Facebook ownership dispute, also came out in 2010 may have been more than a coincidence, the court said.

Ceglia had also sued the government to stop its criminal prosecution of him on charges he defrauded Facebook. A lower court refused to revive that lawsuit, and the appeals court agreed with that decision.

"We are pleased that the truth has prevailed," a Facebook spokeswoman said.

Ceglia was on bail in that case but has been missing since at least last month, after cutting off an electronic monitoring bracelet and violating the conditions of his bail. He is believed to have left home with his wife, two children and dog.

Joseph Alioto, an attorney for Ceglia, said he would seek a petition for a rehearing. He said the Work for Hire document was authentic.

Although Ceglia's whereabouts are unknown, some believe he's in Ireland with relatives who live there, said Robert Ross Fogg, a defense attorney in Ceglia's criminal case.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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