Goldman Sachs Tries to Silence Spite Site
What to do when you are an investment bank that owes $10 billion to the government and some gnat puts up a website to trash you for the way you do business? If you are Goldman Sachs, you hire a New York law firm to send a ridiculous cease and desist letter.
The website in question is goldmansachs666.com. It was posted by Mike Morgan a short while ago. He hopes that the site will become a public forum for all things relating to Goldman Sachs. No doubt anticipating a possible backlash from Goldman, Morgan put a banner at the top of the site, which proclaims:
“This website has NOT been approved by Goldman Sachs, nor does this website have any affiliation with Goldman Sachs. This website was designed to provide information about Goldman Sachs direct from the public, and NOT from Goldman Sachs’s marketing and public relations departments. You may find the Goldman Sachs website at www.goldmansachs.com.”
Nonetheless, the New York lawyer, who I assume does not get a lot of calls from NASA headhunters, wrote to Morgan:
“Your use of the mark Goldman Sachs violates several of Goldman Sachs’ intellectual property rights, constitutes an act of trademark infringement, unfair competition and implies a relationship and misrepresents commercial activity and/or an affiliation between you and Goldman Sachs which does not exist and additionally creates confusion in the marketplace.”
So, apparently Goldman Sachs thinks so much of its customers that it believes they would go to a site which says the bank is of the devil, and believe that the site is approved by Goldman Sachs.
A spite site, standing alone, is not actionable. If the first commercial site created on the web was Acme.com, you can be sure the second site was Acme-Sucks.com. Such sites have a long tradition on the Internet, and no one gets confused about their purpose. GoldmanSachsSucks was probably already taken, so Morgan apparently had to get creative.
When it comes to comments on the Internet, always bargain from a position of strength. If you “demand” that someone take down comments with no grounds to back up that demand, the usual result will be that you have fanned the flames for no reason and for no result. I turn down perhaps 20 requests per week to send cease and desist letters, explaining to the callers that the comments in question do not constitute defamation, and that it is folly to send a cease and desist letter to someone that is within his legal rights and has no duty to cease or desist. Apparently New York lawyers take a different approach.