Despite a dismissal from a Massachusetts judge, self-proclaimed Facebook co-creator Aaron Greenspan is not giving up his battle against Columbia Pictures and Random House. Greenspan claims he was denied his rightful place in the Facebook saga by being left out of The Social Network and by having his name changed in Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires. Greenspan filed an appeal on May 10 against the studio, the publisher and Mezrich in his copyright infringement, fraud and “defamation by omission” case. The filing comes just a few days before Facebook’s expected $96 billion IPO and a day after Judge Robert Collings dismissed all of the former Harvard student’s claims. The book Accidental Billionaires was the basis for the screenplay Aaron Sorkin wrote for the 2010 Columbia film about the creation of Facebook; Sorkin won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Greenspan has long claimed he came up with “The Face Book” in September 2003, months before his classmate Mark Zuckerberg did. Zuckerberg is not named as a defendant.
The plaintiff, who first filed his case on November 18, 2011, had sought hundreds of thousands in statutory damages and a permanent injunction against the film and the book. Greenspan says he sent a copy of his autobiography Authoritas: One Student’s Harvard Admissions And The Founding Of The Facebook Era to Random House. The now Silicon Valley-based Greenspan claims that while the publisher rejected his book, a number of similar scenes to ones he described in his book show up in Mezrich’s. The judge did acknowledge similarities between the two but called them not “so extensive that an ordinary observer could conclude that there was unlawful appropriation.” Greenspan self-published his book on June 1, 2008. Random House published The Accidental Billionaires on July 14, 2009.
Despite the odd nature of Greenspan’s “defamation by omission” claim, here’s a few things to consider if he does get his appeal kicked up to First District court: Mezrich in Accidental Billionaires credits Greenspan’s tome as a secondary source, and in July 2008 Mezrich did try to get Greenspan’s help on Billionaires. Greenspan has shown the New York Times and others copies of emails from his Harvard years telling students about the “Face Book” student-locating feature of his houseSYTEM Web service. Greenspan and Zuckerberg corresponded about melding the feature into something the latter was working on but ultimately decided not too. Greenspan and Zuckerberg did come to a confidential settlement in 2009 when the former opposed the latter’s efforts to trademark “Facebook.” But legal disputes about who helped create Facebook are nothing new — just ask the Winklevoss twins and Eduardo Saverin.
Greenspan is represented by Marvin N. Cable of Northampton, Mass.
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