Class No. 4 (Contracts and Vampires)

In our next class, we will consider the law and ethics of two separate promises depicted in the movie “The Social Network”–the informal coding agreement between the Winklevoss twins and Mark Zuckerberg as well as the informal partnership between Zuckerberg and his best friend Eduardo Saverin. In summary, the movie “The Social Network” depicts two ill-fated promises. Soon after the Facemash fiasco, the Winklevoss twins and their partner Divya Narendra introduce themselves to their fellow classmate Mark Zuckerberg, and they proceed to pitch him an idea for an online social network/dating website: the Harvard Connection (later renamed ConnectU). In the movie version of these events, Zuck tells them “I’m in” without hesitation, but then, in the very next scene (!), Mark and Eduardo negotiate an informal partnership agreement with the purpose of launching a “clean and simple” social network, a rival website that Mark would eventually christen “thefacebook.” Assuming the veracity of the movie version of these promissory events, the key question is thus this: are either of these oral agreements legally binding? In addition, we will also debate whether humans should be allowed to sell blood to vampires. (FYI: check out this podcast on this esoteric topic.) That is, are there any voluntary and consensual contracts that the law should refuse to enforce as a matter of policy? If so, how should courts draw this legal line?

Image result for elements of a contract

Image Credit: Pearson Education

This entry was posted in Ethics, Law. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Class No. 4 (Contracts and Vampires)

  1. Craig says:

    This is interesting. You posed the question to your students in terms of whether the statements were “legally binding” rather than whether they were defensible or prosecutable. Your presentation of the issue implies an absolutist reading, if I may, as if the concept of “legally binding” is findable by simple inspection of the narrative. I would venture that the pertinent lesson is that a finding of what is “legally binding” will be decided by a judge who hears arguments for and against. So: never having been a law student (my loss!), is the point of law school to teach students to be advocates (a practical reading) or judges? Or is the point of law school to know how judges think, so that one may tailor one’s arguments to suit (a Bayesian reading)? You pose great questions, Enrique.

    • Those are good questions. One of my favorite legal quotes of all time is by Oliver Wendell Holmes, who once said: “The prophecies of what the courts will do, and nothing more pretentious, are what I mean by law” (!). So, in the spirit of Holmes’s prediction theory of law, by “legally binding,” what I really mean is this: how likely is it that a court will enforce a given promise.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s