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A man walks out of Goldman Sachs
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Blogger Covering Goldman Sachs is Latest to Face Possible Shutdown

April 13, 2009 01:00 PM
by Liz Colville
Mike Morgan, a blogger who writes about Goldman Sachs and other investment firms at GoldmanSachs666.com, has received a cease-and-desist request from the firm's lawyers. He is the latest in a line of recent bloggers facing legal challenges.

Blog "Implies a Relationship" With Goldman Sachs, Say Lawyers

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Mike Morgan, a registered investment adviser who began Facts About Goldman Sachs a few weeks ago, has been told in a cease-and-desist letter from Goldman Sachs' lawyers that the blog "violates several of Goldman Sachs' intellectual property rights" and "implies a relationship" with the bank, The Daily Telegraph reports. The letter is hosted on Morgan's blog.

Morgan contends that his blog "clearly states that the content has not been approved by the bank" in the header. Morgan also told The Telegraph that he has previously written on issues of public interest in a blog about the homebuilding company Lennar. He eventually settled out of court with the company. "I've had advice from some of the best intellectual property lawyers, and I know exactly what I can and can't do," he said.

According to the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation's section on intellectual property rights and bloggers, "nominative fair use" of a company's trademark, even in the context of complaints about a company, "is permitted if using the trademark is necessary to identify the products, services, or company you're talking about, and you don't use the mark to suggest the company endorses you."

Morgan calls his blog an "open forum for facts and discussion about what part Goldman Sachs and their executives played in the current Global Economic Crisis."

Background: Blogging and intellectual property laws

Two notable cases involving alleged intellectual property law violations by bloggers have come out in favor of bloggers.

In Bosley Medical Institute, Inc. v. Kremer, which was settled in 2005, the Bosley Medical Institute argued that defendant Michael Kremer had violated intellectual property rights by setting up a blog at BosleyMedical.com that complained about his experience at the hair restoration institute. The Ninth Circuit court held that because there was no sale of goods or services involved, the "use of another’s trademark as the domain name for a non-commercial gripe site does not constitute trademark infringement or dilution."

In 2008's Union Square Partnership v. Durkee, Savitri Durkee, an "activist concerned with preserving the character of Union Square and Union Square Park," established a Web site that parodied an area development company, Union Square Partnership (USP). USP's lawyers argued that Durkee's site infringed on the company's copyright. The site was shut down.

On behalf of Durkee, the Electronic Frontier Foundation argued that "Durkee's parody is protected under the First Amendment and fair use doctrine." The case was settled nonmonetarily with Durkee agreeing "to transfer the original domain names, to use disclaimers, and to refrain from impersonating USP board members by name." Durkee and the EFF called it a victory for political activism on the Web.

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Opinion & Analysis: Goldman Sachs vs. GoldmanSachs666.com

Pondering the legitimacy of Goldman Sachs' claims, The Business Insider's blog Clusterstock says, "[I]t strikes us as extremely unlikely that anyone would think that Morgan's website is affiliated with Goldman Sachs. If the content weren't clearly anti-Goldman, the disclaimer at the top of the website should make that clear," adding that the "unfair competition claim is laughable."

The blog Techdirt adds, "Many, many courts have found that such sites are perfectly legitimate, because no one would confuse a site complaining about a company for the company itself. ... as with so many of these things, all it's actually done is draw a hell of a lot more attention to the site."

Recent Developments: Two outspoken bloggers in trouble with police

Jeff Pataky, who runs the blog Bad Phoenix Cops, had his home searched by police in March of this year. Pataky believes the search warrant was issued because the police department is fed up with his criticism of them.

And in 2008, a Florida blogger critical of Jacksonsville pastor Mac Brunson had his identity revealed by a city police detective who also works for the pastor’s security detail.

Related Topic: Bloggers under fire abroad; Employee blogging leads to trouble at work

Dozens of bloggers have been arrested as a result of their blogging activities since 2003, according to a 2008 study conducted by the University of Washington. Iran, Egypt, and China account for more than half of these arrests.

Anonymous blogging and message board posts from the law firm Skadden Arps, the Internet infrastructure giant Cisco and the CEO of Whole Foods have all shown the risks of taking work issues onto the Web, where some say the rules of the workplace should still apply.

Reference: Lawsuits against bloggers

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