Facebook's Zuckerberg 'quite sure' he didn't sign away the company

Social network will launch an IPO 'when time is right,' CEO says in TV interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer (see video, below)

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When unveiling the new, simpler controls this past May, Zuckerberg said the company had communicated badly with users about their privacy concerns.

In his conversation with Sawyer, Zuckerberg, who lives within walking distance of Facebook's offices in Palo Alto, Calif., even addressed a lawsuit that is raising questions about who actually owns the wildly popular social network.

Paul D. Ceglia of Wellsville, N.Y., who filed the suit at the end of June, alleges that he signed a contract with Zuckerberg in 2003 that entitles him to 84% ownership of the company.

According to court documents, Ceglia claims he had a signed contract with Zuckerberg to design and build a site that eventually turned into what is today Facebook.

He also alleges he was paid $1,000 for the work and for a 50% stake in the site, along with an extra 1% for every day until the Web site was completed.

Facebook has called the lawsuit "frivolous."

In last night's interview, however, Zuckerberg did not say that he absolutely did not sign any contract, and he steered clear of completely rebutting the claim. "We're quite sure that we did not sign a contract that says they have any right to ownership over Facebook," he said.

Earlier this week, a Facebook lawyer was widely quoted in online reports saying she was "unsure" if Zuckerberg had signed the contract.

However, in an e-mail to Computerworld on Wednesday, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said the attorney, Lisa Simpson, was misquoted and had only been trying to say that she had never seen the original document.

"We have serious questions about the authenticity of the document and, assuming an original exists, we look forward to expressing our opinion about it once we see it," Noyes added.

In the interview with Zuckerberg last night, Sawyer also brought up the upcoming movie about the evolution of Facebook, The Social Network. Due out this October, the film doesn't paint Zuckerberg in the best light, focusing on issues of who actually was involved in creating the Web site.

Zuckerberg said he would not go see the movie.

"We can't be focused when people try to say things that aren't true. I really believe that people get remembered for what they build," Zuckerberg said in an excerpt from the interview posted at ABCNew.com.

"People don't care about what someone says about you in a movie -- or even what you say, right? They care about what you build," he contended. "And if you can make something that makes people's life better, then that's something that's really good."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at  @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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