Media World: Short seller not unloading anti-Goldman site

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Florida short-seller Mike Morgan is so enraged by Goldman Sachs Group (GS) that he turned down a $2 million offer from an unidentified seller for anti-Goldman website he's created. The site has been extremely critical of the bank and has become the subject of a lawsuit.

"I am not selling the Web site," said Morgan, who has received other offers for Goldman Sachs666.com, in an interview. "It may have been a crank or Goldman Sachs feeling us out. At this point, I don't take any of them seriously."

GoldmanSachs666 now prominently discloses that it is not endorsed by Goldman Sachs and even provides a link to the company's Web site after receiving a "cease and desist letter" from the bank. It does not contain any company logos. The blog's name is in dramatic white cursive letters against a background of red flames.

Goldman attorney John A. Squires wrote April 8 in a letter posted on Morgan's Web site that his use of the term "Goldman Sachs" creates confusion in the marketplace and violates the bank's trademark. Morgan, who is short a basket of financial stocks including Goldman, told the DailyFinance that this argument was nonsense. His views were backed up by a prominent First Amendment attorney. A Goldman Sachs spokesperson denied that the firm was trying to shut Morgan up and said that the company was only trying to protect its intellectual property.

Morgan filed suit in U.S. District Court in Fort Pierce, Florida asking to be declared the lawful owner of GoldmanSachs666 and another domain name, GoldmanSachs13.com. The investor said is in the process of hiring a process server to serve Goldman with court papers in New York. Goldman has yet to be officially served.

In the interview, Morgan said he has taken "extreme pains" to make his site non-commercial, including not taking advertisements. He was prompted to start GoldmanSachs 666 because he was outraged over the bailout of Goldman and other financial institutions.

"Americans don't even comprehend what a million dollars is anymore," he said. "I hate injustice and this is one of the biggest injustices I have ever seen."

Ever since the media reports have emerged about, GoldmanSachs666.com, he has been inundated with offers from help from as far away as Finland. Morgan has also received offers from law professors for free legal advice in his fight against Goldman.

Paul Alan Levy, an attorney with the Public Citizen Litigation Group, told the Daily Finance that Goldman's claim against Morgan is not strong since courts have ruled that people have a right to use trademarked names that they don't own in Web domains if its non commercial. To prove this point, Bloomberg News columnist Matthew Lynn recently registered "Goldmansachsislovely.com" which jokingly offered to sell for a six-figure sum.

"Ain't nobody going to type GoldmanSachs 666 to to get to Goldman Sachs' Web site," Levy said. "It just does not seem to me that they have have a tenable case."

Goldman Sachs is far from alone in pursuing such tactics. For example, Apple Inc. (AAPL) is notorious for suing media outlets it feels unlawfully disseminated top-secret information such as new products. Large companies, though, tend to avoid such fights because "generally speaking their lawyers know better," according to Levy, who has argued four cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The lesson in this is simple: new media organizations -- even if they are a blogger in his basement -- are subject to the same kinds of legal hassles as the mainstream media. Companies won't be afraid to sic their lawyers on sites.

"Sometimes companies sue because they really were libeled," said Lucy Daglish of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, in an interview. "Sometimes companies do it because they don't like what you are seeing. If you are the website, you need to be very very careful that you don't publish false facts."

Morgan is undaunted by the dust-up with Goldman and plans to launch similar sites critical of other banks.
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