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A legal faceoff over Facebook

Stephen Beard Jul 25, 2007


Lisa Napoli: A bunch of guys who went to Harvard together are facing off in court today. It all has to do with this suddenly everywhere social-networking site called Facebook and a would-be rival called ConnectU.

Stephen Beard says it’s the digital-age equivalent of stealing someone’s girlfriend.

Stephen Beard: The three people behind ConnectU accuse Mark Zuckerberg of fraud and theft of intellectual property. They claim that while they were students at Harvard, they asked Zuckerberg to finish writing some computer code for them.

They say they were planning a Web site designed to put people in touch with each other online. Zuckerberg apparently never finished the code — but started his own site, called Facebook. It’s attracted more than 30 million users worldwide. ConnectU has 70,000.

Tom Standage of The Economist magazine says the case could be a trial in every sense for Zuckerberg:

Tom Standage: Facebook has been called the “new Google”— Zuckerberg has been compared to Bill Gates and to Steve Jobs. But one of the things that makes them great is their ability to triumph over adversity. We haven’t seen that from Zuckerberg yet. But this is his first real test.

The ConnectU founders want the court to shut down Facebook.

Facebook, which last year turned down a $1-billion offer from Yahoo! — rejects the allegations. This is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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