Facebook Faces Yet Another Legal Battle as Alleged E-Mails Surface

Paul Ceglia claims emails purportedly exchanged with Mark Zuckerberg prove he owns 50 percent of “The Face Book”

Just as a three-judge panel dismissed a bid by the infamous Winklevoss twins to continue their legal battle against Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who they claim stole their idea for the social network as undergrads at Harvard, a new wrinkle in another dispute over Facebook’s ownership could keep its Palo Alto lawyers busy for awhile.

Paul Ceglia, a New York-based software developer who filed a lawsuit against Facebook in Buffalo last year, filed an amended complaint on Monday claiming seven-year-old emails he purportedly exchanged with Zuckerberg prove he owns 50 percent of what was then called “The Face Book.”

According to Ceglia, Zuckerberg wrote him asking for $1,000 to get the site live before the Winklevosses could get theirs up.

In one exchange Ceglia filed Monday — the same day a San Francisco court dismissed the Winklevoss case — Zuckerberg purportedly wrote:

"I have recently met with a couple of upperclassmen here at Harvard that are planning to launch a site very similar to ours. If we don't make a move soon, I think we will lose the advantage we would have if we release before them. I've stalled them for the time being."

In another, Zuckerberg purportedly wrote:

"According to our contract I owe you over 30% more of  [the] business in late penalties which would give you over 80% of the company…I'd like to suggest that you drop the penalty completely and that we officially return to 50/50 ownership."

The emails would seem to give Ceglia’s case — which critics widely dismissed when he first filed the claims last June — some legitimacy. (Even Ceglia’s new lawyers didn’t believe him at first. “At first I shrugged it off as incredible," one of them, Robert Brownie, told AMLawDaily.com. "I would not have gotten involved if we had any doubts about the facts or evidence in the case.")

But lawyers for Facebook reiterated their contention that Ceglia "a scam artist” and "a fraudulent lawsuit brought by a convicted felon." (Ceglia was sued in 2009 for alleged fraud related to his “wood-pellet fuel company”; in 1997, he was convicted of drug possession.)

”From the outset, we've said that this scam artist's claims are ridiculous and this newest complaint is no better," Orin Snyder, an attorney representing Facebook, said in a statement. “We look forward to defending it in court.”

Click here for a PDF of Ceglia's filing.