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WallStreetSex.com backs down

The site temporarily shuts down pending a makeover after it was sued by TheStreet.com for allegedly copying the financial site's look.

    Faced with a $5 million lawsuit over its design, WallStreetSex.com has decided it doesn't pay to be cute.

    The adult site has temporarily shut down pending a makeover, after TheStreet.com sued it last month for allegedly copying the financial site's look.

    Since spring, WallStreetSex.com had been the tawdry look-alike of the investing news site. But the latter didn't appreciate being imitated by a site that mixes stock quotes with nude pictorials of women. TheStreet.com argued in its lawsuit that its copyrights and trademarks had been violated because WallStreetSex.com's logo, layout, and stock quote ticker mimicked its graphics and was tarnishing TheStreet.com's image.

    Now, however, the operator of WallStreetSex.com has backed down.

    "We came to a mutual agreement with TheStreet.com," said Andrew Strauss, founder of Wallstreetsex.com, which had offered real-time financial information combined with erotic chat rooms, sex videos, and a store that sells adult toys and lingerie. Some services cost $9.95 per month.

    "We took down the site just so that we wouldn't have to face legal costs," he added. "We're not sure yet when it will be back up."

    TheStreet.com would not comment on the lawsuit, but has not withdrawn it.

    The financial site also had named WallStreetSex.com's Web host in the lawsuit, but has pulled that threat, according to the host, Alphabit Media. "They called me and told me that they came to terms and I was out of it--so I escaped pretty unscathed," said Eric Stone of Alphabit.

    TheStreet.com launched in November of 1996 and charges between $6.95 and $9.95 per month for access to news and commentary about investing. TheStreet.com has 20,000 individual subscribers and is engaged in a $10 million advertising campaign, according to the lawsuit.

    Like many companies on the Net, TheStreet.com's distribution deals, ad campaigns, and site design all are a part of its quest to gain brand recognition in a market that is fiercely competitive.

    TheStreet.com's lawsuit is not the first of its kind. Web publishers from Microsoft to Playboy Enterprises have battled with others over everything from confusing domain names to the metatag terms sites use to attract traffic via search engines.

    Legal experts said TheStreet.com had a strong case because a Web site's source code and logos, for example, can be copyrighted, and a site's "look and feel" can be protected under trademark law.