By Daniel Davidson
As if Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t already anticipating a landmark birthday, not because of age but because of Facebook’s anticipated IPO, he can now add a victory over a potential payout to self-proclaimed Facebook co-founder Aaron Greenspan.
In the lawsuit which was filed with Massachusetts’ U.S. District Court, Greenspan alleged that he was not properly named in Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Billionaire and was completely misplaced in the big screen story of Zuckerberg’s success, The Social Network. Unfortunately for him, the judge dismissed the case with prejudice in favor of Defendants Benjamin Mezrich, Random House, Inc., Mezco, Inc., and Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Allegations, in addition to the “defamation” cause above, included copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, and vicarious infringement. Greenspan’s claims copyright infringement of his book Authoritas: One Student’s Harvard Admissions and the Founding of the Facebook Era which was granted a copyright in 2008. In the judge’s opinion, which can be seen in its entirety here, the notion that ideas cannot be copyrighted is discussed. The judge conveniently lays out examples of what can be copyrighted and what cannot. For example, the judge writes, “As to Greenspan’s description of Summers’ assistant in (6), the fact of her ethnicity is not protected; however, the plaintiff’s original expression of the idea of an assistant taking notes should enjoy copyright protection.”
The defamation claim is a somewhat backwards theory for him to sue on. As some may know, defamation is the publication of false statements against someone which are capable of damaging the reputation of someone, and have caused that person economic loss. Greenspan argues that by being left out of the movie and being referred to by a different name in the book, he was being defamed. The judge thought otherwise and states that Greenspan would not be held up to “scorn, hatred, ridicule or contempt” due to the name change and omission.
Greenspan, the last of the Mohicans against Facebook, has already noticed the court that he intends to appeal the decision entered on May 9.