Thursday, August 20, 2009

Oprah and Dr. Oz lauch "right of publicity" suit for false endorsements

Here’s a good one. Although Oprah Winfrey has been the target of some SLAPP suits, this time, she is turning the tables, with her frequent medical lifestyle guest, Dr. Mehmet Oz. They are suing about fifty small companies for falsely using their names to imply endorsement of a number of consumer or beauty products.

This is known as a violation of “right of publicity”.

The legal theory as to how the plaintiffs are harmed is interesting: it’s called the “Death by a Thousand Cuts Theory.” It sounds pretty hypothetical.

Here is the AOL news link. The story is called "Oprah Winfrey: Slayer of Spam".

Writers and bloggers and particularly small business webmasters should be aware of the risks of implying a celebrity endorsement of a product or service.

Update: Aug. 24, 2009
ABC "World News Tonight" reported that the FTC says that celebrities must actually use the products they endorse. The FCC link (on the July 16 post here) has added proposals based on comments, and discusses ads that lead readers to believe that the spokespeople voiced their own opinions.

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