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Facebook Founder Accused of Stealing The Idea
engine




msg:3403885
 8:57 am on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

Mark Zuckerberg, the 23-year-old founder of Facebook, will today be accused of stealing the idea for his enormously popular social networking site from a rival website.

Mr Zuckerberg is being for sued for stealing the source code – and design – of Facebook from ConnectU.com, a similar, university-based social network which he worked for briefly as a programmer four years ago.

At a district court in Boston, Massachusetts, ConnectU's founders, who were in the same year at Harvard as Mr Zuckerberg, will demand that Facebook be shut down and that control of the site – and its profits – be handed over to them.

Facebook Founder Accused of Stealing The Idea [technology.timesonline.co.uk]

 

BillyS




msg:3404266
 3:26 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

This one is meant for the courts - it seems too coincidental.

To me it doesn't matter if he took a good idea and made it a great idea. If he was given access to confidential information and used that to his advantage or stole code then it's just plain wrong. It's a conflict of interest and I'm not sure the courts will be sympathetic.

Demaestro




msg:3404271
 3:29 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

Imagine if Dave had made off with a truckload of ingredients after having signed an agreement that taking anything off the premises. That would be considered theft.

It is speculation that he stole anything.

But to follow your example..... if he stole the meat from the store he would be charged with theft... he would have to pay restitution.... but the all the proceeds from his store would NOT be turned over t the other guys and he would carry on with business as usual.

I haven't worked for any social site and I can write code that appears in both sites.

*******
select * from user where user_name = 'user_name' and password= 'password';

select * from message where user_id = user_id
************

How about some "connect" with people code....

**********
select * from user where user_highschool_id in (select user_highschool_id from user where user_id=logged_in_user_id)
**********

There are only so many ways to implement an idea. Facebook has stand alone apps...Ajax everywhere... I don't see anything like it on this other site. Leaving me to wonder what he took other then an idea... an idea that ConnectU wasn't the first to think of.

Your assertion that he must have stolen because he is a student and according to your rant all students are thieves.... is really a gross one.

iblaine




msg:3404300
 3:51 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

If this lawsuit were trivial then it would have been thrown out when the suit originated, 3 years ago. My guess is there is some merit behind it.

PS, this story relates to SEO, why?

theBear




msg:3404305
 3:57 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

iblaine,

There have been meritless suits that go on for years.

Don't fall into that trap the court system in the US my grind exceedingly fine in the end but it also can take forever.

ergophobe




msg:3404311
 4:06 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)


It is speculation that he stole anything.

I completely agree and that's what I said right after. I only meant that there is a range of possibilities, from that he was vaguely inspired by their idea to do something that he saw as totally different and innovative, to that he lifted large amounts of code in violation of an NDA, and an infinite number of possibilities in between. Where it falls on that continuum will determine whether or not it's a crime, but it's not a priori a ridiculous lawsuit just because the current ConnectU site blows. It will depend on the facts of the case.


Your assertion that he must have stolen because he is a student and according to your rant all students are thieves.... is really a gross one.

Mea culpa on the guilt by association accusation (which I tried to make against myself in the last bit). And you're right, I was wrong to do it.

As for the rest, I certainly do not believe that all students are "thieves". Most of my students presented their own work and not plagiarized work.

A large number, though, were fuzzy on the concept of what constitutes original work. The students that I have confronted on plagiarism have mostly been at a complete loss to understand how they had failed to do the assignment, let alone that they have done something that violates university policy (though as unpublished work, is not typically illegal).

More typical than the guy who "borrowed" the printer output are students who open a book with an article on their topic, reword the article, and present it as their own work, not because they are trying to do something dishonest, but because they genuinely don't understand what original work is.

That said, if you look at surveys on student cheating and student attitudes toward cheating, it is much more tolerated than it was in the past and much more tolerated than it is among older people. There is a general culture among university students that sees no problem with plagiarism, file sharing and copyright violations.

Sorry if you still find that gross, but it's what I see from my experience and from numerous surveys over recent years.

Demaestro




msg:3404329
 4:24 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

If this lawsuit were trivial then it would have been thrown out when the suit originated, 3 years ago. My guess is there is some merit behind it.

PS, this story relates to SEO, why?

Really? Because I was thinking that if it originated 3 years ago and almost nothing has happened yet that there isn't merit behind it. 3 years seems slow to have no judgements

PS.. I think it is about webmastering... if anything one can learn a lesson about NDAs and protecting what you think to be an original idea.

some things from the article:
1) there is no assertion that he stole code... just that he """proceeded to develop his own site based on their ideas."""

2) also that he "voluntarily agreed to do six hours of coding" which to me says no work contract was in place at all

3) They claim he "He stalled us for months while he worked on his own idea, which he launched in February as an original idea."

4) "originally it was called HarvardConnection dot com, which Zuckerberg uses as evidence that their site was never meant to connect students from different schools."

No where... and I mean no where can I find any mention of them accusing him of taking their code base to kick off his site.... their whole claim seems centered around the fact that he "took" their idea.

In fact Zuckerberg can prove that messaging and "poking" never appeared on their site until after they appeared on FaceBook and that these features were stolen from him... he backs this up with time-lined screen shots.

[edited by: Demaestro at 4:26 pm (utc) on July 25, 2007]

Gomvents




msg:3404384
 5:20 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

Demaestro, look at the privacy violations facebook puts out there. This is a dork with an ego who think he's some hot #*$! because he took a concept (not his) and made a site (not his code) and Harvard students helped make it big. However without his selling personal data he wouldn't make a penny. a smart person would have dumped the site for $1B when he had the chance. Seriously, college students do not make good business owners - they simply don't have the life experience. it's a fact of life... people make mistakes, you learn from your mistakes and you get smarter and better at what you do.

Demaestro




msg:3404394
 5:47 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)


Demaestro, look at the privacy violations facebook puts out there. This is a dork with an ego who think he's some hot #*$! because he took a concept (not his) and made a site (not his code) and Harvard students helped make it big. However without his selling personal data he wouldn't make a penny. a smart person would have dumped the site for $1B when he had the chance. Seriously, college students do not make good business owners - they simply don't have the life experience. it's a fact of life... people make mistakes, you learn from your mistakes and you get smarter and better at what you do.

Wow... you come off sounding really jealous here.

He is a dork? You know him? Not sure why you are insulting the guy.

He took a concept that wasn't his... do you think the site suing him was the first to think of this idea or did they think it up from another site?

....and made a site (not his code)

Again you are asserting that he created the site with someone else's code... that has NEVER been stated in this case ANYWHERE...No one is accusing him of taking source code!

You are made this up out of thin air and you have the audacity to comment on his ego and moral standing? Sad... try reading about what you speak.

Didn't students make Craig's list huge? Who cares? Every site has a base of people that get it off the ground, not sure what this has to do with anything.

I have never heard anything about them selling data... and if you think putting private info into a website's DB gives you any expectation to privacy you are a fool.

Legally, Facebook owns all data that members upload to the site. It can sell the data to advertisers, marketers and data brokers. (Note: There is no evidence that Facebook does any of this.) It can allow the police to search its databases upon request. It can add new features that change who can access what personal data, and how.

WeaselyOne




msg:3404493
 7:41 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

The crux of this matter will be what the contract says (if there was one) for the work Zuckerberg did on HarvardConnect. If he didn't sign an nda/non-compete then I think he can only be accused of being a jerk. (Of course I'm no lawyer.)

Having worked at a private college for 10 years in the past I can tell you that most students (even bright ones from ivy league schools) don't tend to think about non compete clauses, etc.. when hiring fellow students for freelance work. My guess is he was a bozo and took their idea and ran with it - making a better product. I would also guess they won't be able to prove enough wrong doing to win the case outright. While we don't have all the facts I think this will go away perhaps after Zuckerberg coughs up enough cash for them to feel vindicated.

PoohBear88




msg:3404505
 7:50 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

wow that's nuts. I wonder how this will turn out...

BananaFish




msg:3404520
 8:06 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

"Stealing an idea" is not against any civil codes or criminal codes. The facebook founder wasn't even competing in the same market. Sounds like he "built a better mousetrap", and these other folks he used to work for want to cash in. In America if you can't be successful in business, litigate. And that's what the platiffs are doing.

WeaselyOne




msg:3404544
 8:21 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

BananaFish

If I understand the story correctly he did in fact compete in the same market as he originally rolled it out for Harvard and other colleges and then expanded into the non-higher education market later.

Demaestro




msg:3404575
 8:52 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

If I understand the story correctly he did in fact compete in the same market as he originally rolled it out for Harvard and other colleges and then expanded into the non-higher education market later.

Regardless.... this is called a free and open market... Someone can get a permit to sell Oranges on campus.. then they hire a guy to help sell the oranges... then the guy says "Hey why should I sell Oranges for him.. I will sell them for me" then he gets a permit to sell Oranges and does so on the same campus... can the first oranage guy sue? Think Hard......

See my Dave Thomas story... Dave worked for a greasy spoon diner... he learned all about serving people burgers and doing it fast.... he then went and started his own burger joint Wendy's...wildly more successful then the diner.... was in the same market.... should he get sued by the diner? DUH wake up!

The site suing wasn't the first to come up with this idea..... they don't own the idea.... their only claim is that he took their idea...

It is called being inspired. The only thing that ties this together is that he may have done some work for them... though according to the suit he didn't actually do the work but "strung them along" while he got his site up and running.

skunker




msg:3404577
 8:55 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

If there is no mention of a contract or whatever, then he probably did not sign one. If he did, it would be all over the news.

Swanson




msg:3404581
 9:00 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

I can see how people see this issue differently from the posts here.

Firstly, how well the facebook site works vs the connectu site works means absolute bobbins as to this case.

Secondly, we are talking about 2 things - inside information and ideas about creating this social networking site and then the code that was created from these ideas.

The law is fuzzy here in that we are talking about intellectual property and all sorts of issues.

The point is however is what actually happened vs what is right vs what is legal. The scenario presented is a familar case in that a bunch of guys have an idea - vocalise that idea to a programmer who then implements the idea.

What is right is that in the above scenario the programmer should not (forget contracts) take this information and code done in their time and then set up a similar site.

The law is different - it depends on the ability to prove any of the above.

However in my opinion if it can be proved that the founder of facebook worked on the project of the connectu guys - and that this is deemed a critical part of the idea (the implementation) then facebook is screwed - because in law you would argue what would have happened if they had employed a contractor that had not stolen the ideas and worked on the code.

To do that they need to be able to prove he was a paid contractor at that point. In UK law it is easier to prove - or should I say the laws regarding contractors favour the employer - and I believe this would be hands down a success in favour of connectu in the UK.

All based on my experience....

Swanson




msg:3404618
 9:22 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

In the UK the law is clear - you can "reverse engineer" any idea by looking at it, working out (by looking at it) and then doing your own thing.

What you are not allowed to do is take inside mechanisms (either by someone else, or yourself) and then utilise that to gain a competitive edge.

It might be different in the US - but if it can be proved that he was working at that time on the project "connectu" as a programmer and that he set up a similar site utilising similar concepts then that opens a wide range of issues that arent easily dealt with by legitimate "reverse engineering" arguments.

In simple terms, you can "copy" ideas but you can't use that persons same building blocks that makes the idea a reality - even more if that person paid you to build theirs.

It is also about timing - it is more suspicious if you can launch your own stuff before the guys you were employed by can launch theirs.

WeaselyOne




msg:3404623
 9:27 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

Regardless.... this is called a free and open market... Someone can get a permit to sell Oranges on campus.. then they hire a guy to help sell the oranges... then the guy says "Hey why should I sell Oranges for him.. I will sell them for me" then he gets a permit to sell Oranges and does so on the same campus... can the first oranage guy sue? Think Hard......

Demaestro - I wasn't suggesting that he was guilty for competing with them on the same campus. I was simply offering feedback to BananaFish who seemed to think Zuckerberg wasn't competeing with HarvardConnect (later to become ConnectU) when he first launched TheFacebook (later to become Facebook).

If you look at my original post (just a few above) you'll see that I tend to believe Zuckerberg is probably guilty of being a scmuck if he took their idea but not legally guilty of what ConnectU is accusing him of. Regardless, it's all conjecture at this point and simply an opinion.

Demaestro




msg:3404635
 9:52 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WeaselyOne... sorry I re-read your post and now see I misinterpreted it.

I still wouldn't call him a schmuck... I would call him enterprising. Let's face it (no pun intended) he did what we all strive to achieve. He had an idea... borrowed or otherwise and turned it into big time $$... good for him and shame on this other site for trying to cash in. IMO

WeaselyOne




msg:3404660
 10:27 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

Demaestro - there certainly is a lot of borrowing that goes on in the internet world. I don't really disagree with your take on this but I'm not ready to call him "enterprising" and pat him on the back.

IF he was working for them and delayed their roll out so he could create and launch his own competing site before them (one that he only thought of after working on their project) then I'd call him a schmuck. I wouldn't call him a schmuck if he had simply seen HarvardConnect after it was launched and said, "I can do a better version of that" and then made TheFacebook. That (to me) would have been a better fit to the free market/free enterprise kind of thing. Without the non-compete in a written contract I don't think he's legally in trouble but in my opinion he crossed some ethical boundaries if the above scenario is accurate.

I also think the only people ConnectU can really blame is themselves for not guarding against someone like Zuckerberg as there are a lot of people out there who would do the same. Of course if they are lying about the situation (and he didn't take their idea while working for them) then I'd label the ConnectU guys the schmucks. hehe

Swanson




msg:3404668
 10:47 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

Demaestro, so you missed my post in between yours.

The legal issue is not about him having an "idea" - anyone can copy an idea.

You can not take the inside technology to copy it - that is the issue in this case.

To make it simple - anyone can copy ebay by "looking at or talking about it". You can not, however, take the code that drives ebay and create an ebay clone - that is using the basis of the implementation to create an unfair advantage. That is why you can't just get a job with Google and then take the code you are exposed to (whether you wrote it or not) and then create "shmoogle" - that is the whole point.

The founders of Google "copied" the idea of creating a search engine to search every web page (from AltaVista) - they did not however go and work for them, take the code and release it with a few bells and whistles and call it Google. See the difference?

That is the issue in this case - not the "idea". That is why in my opinion it is not a PR stunt - and anyone not understanding this point is a (mention that it is about ideas and you are a) spaz...

[edited by: Swanson at 10:58 pm (utc) on July 25, 2007]

BillyS




msg:3404829
 2:38 am on Jul 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm with WeaselyOne on this one too. I know a lot of smart kids that think it's okay to use pirated operating systems and download thousands of "free" songs. That would be my immediate reaction. Did a 19 year old "borrow" a bit too much never realizing how much this thing might actually be worth some day?

Still, I think it will be an uphill battle to prove any real wrongdoing.

plumsauce




msg:3404899
 5:06 am on Jul 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

Just on the face of it, it sounds like a typical "deep pockets" lawsuit. Trump up something embarrassing by stitching together a few facts, and then hope that the bigger entity finds it cheaper to buy you off with a settlement instead of waging a multi-year battle in the courts.

I think that this is rather atypical. Most lawsuits cannot trump up a previous employment relationship. This is the most smelly element in the thing.

To those that say copying is capitalism at its finest, that is true. AS LONG AS YOU DO NOT LOOK AT MY BLUEPRINTS

No doubt, any future possibility of a sale of facebook is going to be very difficult given the fact that most VC's prefer that the venture have rock solid IP protection.

Actually, if someone really wanted to buy a lottery ticket on Facebook, they might consider acquiring ConnectU and continuuing the lawsuit. Could be a cheap buy.

old_expat




msg:3404924
 6:06 am on Jul 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

See my Dave Thomas story... Dave worked for a greasy spoon diner... he learned all about serving people burgers and doing it fast.... he then went and started his own burger joint Wendy's...wildly more successful then the diner.... was in the same market.... should he get sued by the diner?

While that may be your Dave Thomas story .. is it the entire Dave Thomas story?

This is a pretty bad analogy unless you know some underlying facts about that situation. Can you know for sure that Dave copied anything from the diner? Or did he just learn a lesson about what the diner was perhaps not doing as well?

Do you know whether or not he offered to partner with the diner on his new idea?

Analogies are usually bad.

DUH wake up!

Why add a comment like this? :>/

GaryK




msg:3404934
 6:18 am on Jul 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

While that may be your Dave Thomas story .. is it the entire Dave Thomas story?

Nope it's not the entire story.

To extend this silly analogy one might speculate why KFC didn't sue Dave when he started serving fried chicken sandwiches. Surely he learned something about fried chicken when he was a KFC franchisee.

Analogies aren't so much bad as they are wrong.

If this kid took an idea and made it work more power to him. If he stole IP in the process then he deserves to lose the lawsuit.

jbinbpt




msg:3405013
 9:31 am on Jul 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

The judge does not give it much hope [machinist.salon.com]

Woodlock gave ConnectU two weeks to file a firmer version of its complaint. He also tossed off this quote to ConnectU's counsel, which I'm positive is a nice way of asking, "Is that all there is?": "You're really going to have to do this with particularity, because this is a most evanescent of explanations."

WeaselyOne




msg:3405443
 5:27 pm on Jul 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

Interesting!

If you're the ConnectU guys it doesn't sound like a very good start to having a billion dollar company handed to you.

Gomvents




msg:3405450
 5:32 pm on Jul 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

"Legally, Facebook owns all data that members upload to the site. It can sell the data to advertisers, marketers and data brokers." Yes, but they make it unclear to most people. And they DO sell your information, they call us all the time and try to sell it to us. IP addresses, list of viewed websites (they grab your history), where you work, went (or go) to school, age, anything else you give them.

Monkey




msg:3405723
 10:47 pm on Jul 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

Going off the subject a little - I read in one of the London newspapers that too many people were giving too much personal details in Facebook.....therefore making it quite easy for ID theft.

rfung




msg:3406522
 5:53 pm on Jul 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

The founders of Google "copied" the idea of creating a search engine to search every web page (from AltaVista) - they did not however go and work for them, take the code and release it with a few bells and whistles and call it Google.

Although I agree on the ethical surface of this idea, and I can see how ConnectU would be miffed if they put their eggs on this one 'contractor' (however loosely this was defined). Say you go to Elance and you hire someone to do a website for you. (lets forget for a bit the legal parts of when you hire through elance). 3 months later, you think the work is being done (maybe with some early screenshots), he pulls out of the contract, and a month later you see your idea, with perhaps features that you disclosed, on another site, and this site happens to be run by your former contractor. Yeahh.. maybe legally ConnectU has no legal standing, but the facebook guy is guilty of at least being unethical.

On the other hand, we see former workers of companies branch out all the time and start their own companies in similar fields. Wasn't Handspring founded by former Palm employees?

Monkey




msg:3407641
 12:05 pm on Jul 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hmm normally there is an NDA with this type of work...

JackR




msg:3408572
 3:37 pm on Jul 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

From the Boston Herald, 26.07.07:

The Ivy League identical twins suing Facebook.com founder and former Harvard classmate Mark Zuckerberg for a high-tech double-cross are in double trouble with a federal judge, who has given them just two months to persuade him not to throw their case out.

“I’m going to offer you the opportunity to meet a higher standard. It’s in your hands,” U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock yesterday warned 25-year-old brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss of ConnectU.com, a rival online networking site.

Woodlock further warned the impossibly handsome Winklevosses - who are in training for next month’s World Rowing Championship in Germany and came to court in matching blue pinstriped suits - that their ongoing courtship of the press has “the aroma” of trying to force an out-of-court settlement with 23-year-old whiz kid Zuckerberg.

This 61 message thread spans 3 pages: < < 61 ( 1 [2] 3 > >
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