Go Ahead. Make my Day

 In news

False celebrity endorsements continue unbound and unchecked. This very column has previously drawn attention to several in the past, including Britain’s own victim, Martin Lewis. It’s true to say significant numbers of celebrity images are being misused every day on-line as click-bait to promote an array of products. Anyone tough enough to make a stand? Perhaps. With the sun at his back, comes a man on a mission or is it a mule.

You see, my mule don’t like people laughing

For some reason CBD companies in America thought Clint Eastwood was the perfect poster-boy for their cannabidiol nonintoxicating compounds. Hmmm… they might now regret that. The Hollywood, hardman legend that is Eastwood (and his company Garrapata who own the rights to Eastwood’s likeness) pulled up their ponchos, drew their pistols and, ‘fanning the hammer’, sprayed lawsuits at a good number of these faceless black-hat bad guys. Because, as the court documents expressed:

“Mr Eastwood has no connection of any kind whatsoever to any CBD products.”

Moreover, his lawyer Jordan Sussman said:

“Mr Eastwood has…demonstrated a willingness to confront wrong doing and hold accountable those who try to illegally profit off his name, likeness and goodwill.”

Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn’t have messed with? That’s me.

The scam is straightforward enough. It’s twofold. The more obvious one is the fake interview. Footage and images from a real interview the celebrity has undertaken is doctored to suggest their support for a product. You’ve probably come across a few of these yourselves, most often soft-advertising or promoting crypto-currency or day-trading platforms. Get-rich-quick nonsense. There are many others including beauty product fake endorsements and now CBD.

The less obvious abuse is where, typically, on-line retailers manipulate search results through meta tags. So, when you search for something connected with Mr Eastwoodyou might find a false claim that he endorses a CBD product. In short, Mr Eastwood’s celebrity is misused to drive traffic to certain websites without his consent.

Up with this Clint Eastwood will not put. And why should he.

This is unlawful, offends intellectual property rights and provides grounds to sue for damages.

You want to play the game, you’d better know the rules

Mr Eastwood knows the rules. So do his legal team. Last year he won $6.1m (plus $95,000 in legal fees) against Mediatonas UAB for using his name and likeness to promote CBD products. In this case there was a fake interview with the star on a set resembling a mainstream chat show that had links directing consumers to buy CBD products.

Worthy of note; the damages were awarded for unauthorised use of Mr Eastwood’s name and image – not for defamation. That latter part of the action failed on the facts even though, one might suggest, the quantum of damages more resembles a successful defamation judgement.

A Few Dollars More

Just weeks ago, Clint Eastwood won his second trade infringement lawsuit. This time a $2m judgement plus legal costs, against Los Angeles-based Norok Innovation. The defendant using the now familiar MO of misusing Eastwood’s name in meta data tags to sell CPD products. The judge in that case concluding $2m was about right, constituting a reasonable fair market value of the infringement.

I tried being reasonable – I didn’t like it

In the words of Clint’s attorney:

“My client is not one to sit idly by as the defendants use his good name to dupe customers into purchasing products with which he has no affiliation.”

These lawsuits

“…should also serve as a reminder to customers to be cautious when they see a too-good-to-be-true celebrity endorsement. I expect these lawsuits will send a message to others about what will happen if they spread false and defamatory statements about Mr Eastwood or use his name and likeness without permission.”

Point well made. There’s man on mule coming to get you.

Men must know their limitations

And finally, as these internet rogue-traders are financially horse-whipped by our hero, it’s hard not to recall the crack of the lash and the toothless smile of Piripero the coffin-maker in A Fistful of Dollars.

A classic movie fightback tale. White-hat stuff albeit with a posse of lawyers and a saddlebag full of gold to pay their fees.

Or you could insure the risk. Just saying.

Murray Fairclough
Development Underwriter
OPUS Underwriting Limited 
+44 (0) 780 145 9940
Research by Ben Fairclough


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