Lesson 3: “The Harvard Connection”

Thus far, we have focused on Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg and his creation of “Facemash” in the fall of 2003, a website which was arguably illegal and which we discussed at length in Lesson 1. It’s now time to introduce Harvard seniors Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss–identical twins played by the actor Armie Hammer in the movie “The Social Network”–as well as their fellow student and business partner Divya Narendra, an engineering student at Harvard. (We will refer to all three partners collectively as the Winklevoss team.) In brief, the Winklevoss team was in the process of developing an exclusive dating website, “The Harvard Connection.” Their innovative idea was this: only students with a Harvard email address could join their website. But this website was not yet ready to be released. The Winklevoss team needed someone to finish writing the computer code for their proposed website. Ironically, the fallout from the Facemash incident— including the “Ad Board” hearing which we studied in Lesson 2—increased Zuckerberg’s notoriety on campus and cemented his reputation as a talented, if immature, computer programmer. In need of just such a person, the Winklevoss team quickly set up a meeting with Zuckerberg and asked for his help with their “Harvard Connection” website. (In “The Social Network,” for example, this meeting takes place in the bicycle room of the exclusive Porcellian Club (the entrance of which is pictured below), and by the end of the meeting, Zuckerberg says “I’m in.”) Lesson 3 will thus focus on two legal questions: (1) Did Mark Zuckerberg and the Winklevoss team enter into a legally-binding contract when Mark agreed to help them out with their website? (2) Assuming there was a valid “work-for-hire” contract or a valid partnership agreement in this case, what is the legal remedy for its breach? (Hint for question #1: What are the elements of a contract and were all these legal elements met in this case.)

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