When I invent the next Facebook, I’ll keep copies of contracts
I just read something on CNN that shocked me. When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was a mere 18-year-old college student at Harvard, he allegedly granted a businessman an ownership stake in what was then a small online side-project. Now it’s a billion-dollar Internet company, and New Yorker Paul Ceglia is trying to claim what he says is rightfully his.
Ceglia claims that he hired Zuckerberg in 2003 to work on two business ventures, one of which was “designed to offer the students of Harvard university access to a wesite [sic] similar to a live functioning yearbook with the working title of ‘The Face Book.'” Sound familiar? Ceglia says he paid $2,000 to Zuckerberg for the job. CNN reports that Facebook’s lawyer has admitted that Zuckerberg signed a contract with Ceglia, but they aren’t sure yet whether the document he has produced is the real document in question or whether the real contract states what he says it does. Facebook is disputing the contention that Ceglia has a real ownership stake, especially since he’s just now coming out with it, but Ceglia is dead set on proving he is right.
Yikes. Lawsuits are messy, especially when they dredge up financial matters from many years ago. Although they are sometimes unavoidable, this proves why it’s so important to have clear, written and signed contracts, and save them forever! You never know when something like this will surface. Contracts and good records are important for everyone, even if it’s just a contract for a one-time freelance service. It’s easy to shrug the formality off, especially if the other party says a contract is optional. I think it’s important to err on the side of caution and always have a clear contract. If you’re afraid you’ll lose it, put it in a safety deposit box or give a copy of it to your lawyer.