Useless But Compelling Facts – December 2011 Answer

As 2011 came to a close, with the buzz and frenzy over the upcoming Facebook ( IPO, we asked you to tell us the first company in the world that ever issued stock, where it was incorporated, the year stock was issued, whether it paid a dividend and whether it – or actually a successor corporation – is still around.

Drum roll . . . . . .

The Dutch East India Company (in Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC) was established in 1602, and although one other company had been chartered (incorporated) before it, the Dutch East India Company was the first to issue stock. Perhaps the quasi-sovereignty of Google (, Facebook ( and other mega-corporations should not be so surprising since my own research uncovered the fact that its charter permitted the company to wage war, imprison and execute convicts, negotiate treaties, and even establish colonies and coin money. And that was in 1602! It must have been doing something right back then because the Dutch East India Company actually paid an 18 percent annual dividend for almost 200 years. Unfortunately, the company became fraught with corruption and by 1800, having gone bankrupt, it was formally dissolved as a corporation, with its land holdings becoming the Dutch East Indies which, over the course of ensuing centuries, expanded into what is now known as Indonesia.

German Court Requires Facebook to About Face

This post was written by Katharina Weimer.

A German Court thinks it may be time to de-friend Facebook. On 6 March 2012, the Regional Court in Berlin took a rare opportunity to rule on several features available on the social media platform Facebook, and not surprisingly opined that Facebook needs to provide more transparency and ask for consent when using users’ information. Worded in the form of consents, the German Court held:

  • Consent No. 1: Facebook may no longer make available one of its most used features, the “friend finder,” without proper information of the user and consent of the user’s contacts who are invited to join Facebook via email
  • Consent No. 2: The exploitation of user content that is protected by intellectual property rights requires affirmative and specific user consent. The language purporting to grant Facebook a comprehensive, worldwide, royalty-free license that is incorporated into Facebook’s existing terms of use is not sufficient.
  • Consent No. 3: Facebook needs to reword its consent regarding the use of personal data for advertising purposes

Although the judgment is technically not legally binding as yet, Facebook announced it will carefully review the consequences and consider legal remedies once the judgment is available in full length. This decision may lead the way to more transparency and user control over social media and the use of information in Germany. Having a world of information at your fingertips and incorporating user content in Web 2.0 services is a great tool for user interaction and learning more about them, but the court’s ruling suggests that Facebook not forget for whom their service was created – the users, not the advertisers. As Facebook edges closer to an IPO and looks to monetize its services and features, the German Court’s view is that Facebook needs to continue to give its users control over their content and information. Stay tuned to Legal Bytes for more details as the court proceedings continue.

Vielen dank (many thanks) to Katharina Weimer for the insights and the update. If you need legal or regulatory counsel, contact Katharina directly, or you can always contact me, Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum, or the Rimon lawyer with whom you regularly work.