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Banking Interpretations

October 12, 1999

Re: [ ]

Dear [ ]:

You have requested an opinion from the New York State Banking Department ("NYSBD") as to whether an entity other than a national bank, a federal reserve bank or a corporation duly authorized by the Superintendent of Banks ("Superintendent") to transact business in New York State may use the word "bank" in a URL domain address. Based on your September 30,1999 letter and several telephone conferences with the NYSBD Legal Division, you question whether an individual, rather than a corporation, may use the word "bank" in a URL domain address.

Section 132 of the New York Banking Law prohibits any person other than a national bank, a federal reserve bank or a corporation duly authorized by the Superintendent to transact business in New York State to use a sign at the place where business is transacted containing language indicating that said place of business is a bank or trust company.

It is the informal opinion of the NYSBD that pursuant to Banking Law §132, only a national bank, federal reserve bank or a corporation duly authorized by the Superintendent to transact business in New York State may use the word "bank" in a URL domain address. Other banking institutions, such as federal savings associations and out-of-state banks, may also be permitted to the term "bank" by virtue of either federal law or permissive provisions otherwise contained in the Banking Law. Although Banking Law §132 does not specifically refer to URL domain addresses as it was enacted prior to the creation of the internet, a URL domain address is substantially equivalent to an office sign for electronic commerce purposes. Therefore, a URL domain address containing the word "bank" would likely give the impression that the entity so promoting itself at the internet web site located at that URL domain address is a bank or trust company. Accordingly, it is our informal view that an individual is prohibited from using a URL domain name that contains the word "bank."

As I am sure you aware, the greater issue of whether an internet business is considered to be doing business, for tax and other purposes, in every jurisdiction where its web site may be accessed has not been definitively determined. Accordingly, based on its informal nature, this letter is not intended to apply beyond its narrow scope.

I trust this is responsive to your inquiry.

Very truly yours,
[ ]
Assistant Counsel