The Social Network

I woke up yesterday and the empty hours of yet another Saturday stretched before me like a languid whore eager to be pleasured. I decided to fill some time by seeing “The Social Network,” the new movie about the development of Facebook. It’s an engaging story, but there is an aspect to it that bothers me. In the film, two twin brothers bring a lawsuit against their fellow Harvard student, Mark Zuckerberg, who built Facebook. The brothers allege that since they hired Zuckerberg to work on a similar social network before he started Facebook, they, in essence, were owed money as co-creators of Facebook. In the end, we find that Facebook settled the suit by awarding the twins 65 million dollars.

To its credit, the movie makes mention of the obvious point: Zuckerberg did not invent the social network. The original social network, Friendster, had been around for years, soon followed by And, when you think about it, a social network hardly needs to be “invented” — it’s merely a hodgepodge of existing Web technologies like guest books, e-mail etc.

So, if Zuckerberg did not invent the social network — and he did not — neither did the twins who sued him. If I run a hamburger chain and hire a new employee who then leaves my company and goes off and starts his own hamburger chain, I can’t sue him claiming that he stole the idea of hamburgers from me.

Well, except, by the logic of this case, maybe I could.

Lawrence Lessig offers a similar take in this New Republic review.

But from the story as told, we certainly know enough to know that any legal system that would allow these kids to extort $65 million from the most successful business this century should be ashamed of itself. Did Zuckerberg breach his contract? Maybe, for which the damages are more like $650, not $65 million. Did he steal a trade secret? Absolutely not. Did he steal any other “property”? Absolutely not—the code for Facebook was his, and the “idea” of a social network is not a patent. It wasn’t justice that gave the twins $65 million; it was the fear of a random and inefficient system of law.

I find this comment from Lessig somewhat baffling, however.

… an absurdity one could well miss in this film between all the cocaine and practically naked twentysomethings.

I found the movie disturbingly bereft of practically naked twentysomethings, and, frankly, pretty low on cocaine.

6 Responses to “The Social Network”

  1. John Saleeby

    Man, fuck that Movie.

    What I’m looking forward to is the Fran Drescher Daytime Talk Show on Fox!

  2. John Saleeby

    Wow, can you believe those crazy cut upa at “Saturday Night Live” did a parody of Christine O’Donnell’s “I am not a witch” spot? Those people are OUT OF CONTROL!!! Nothing is sacred to those maniacs!!! WOW!!!

  3. Wil

    Yeah, I saw that. It was pretty funny. She rode off on a broom.

  4. John Saleeby

    Whoever played O’Donnell in that isn’t nearly as cute as O’Donnell.

  5. Wil

    Well, that’s true, but it was Kristen Wig who is cute in some weird way.

  6. John Saleeby

    Christine’s cuter, man. I’ve been spending a lot of time lately just staring at pictures of her without being aware of what I’m doing. Cause she’s cast a SPELL on me!!! Haw haw haw!!

    I just listened to the Guided By Voices CD with “I Am A Scientist” on it. That shit is AWESOME!!