- Ellen DeGeneres and Sandra Bullock have filed a joint lawsuit against individuals and entities who use their likeness to create fake endorsements of products, in an effort to “expose the Celebrity Endorsement Theft Industry.”
- Fake celebrity endorsements have become more common thanks to scammers who prey on consumers in a growing era of affiliate marketing.
- For years celebs have issued cease-and-desist orders, but these companies operate quickly, taking down one site only to replace it with another soon after.
Stars File Lawsuit
Hollywood stars Ellen DeGeneres and Sandra Bullock are fed up with websites using their likeness without consent to falsely promote their products
The two filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court as part of an effort to “expose the Celebrity Endorsement Theft Industry,” which they say has become a major issue for stars in the digital age.
DeGeneres and Bullock are specifically going after scammers in the affiliate marketing industry who direct traffic to e-commerce sites by creating phony advertisements.
The two have issued a “right of publicity” claim, saying that these individuals and entities use their names and likeness for false advertising of products like face creams, anti-aging serums, dietary supplements, and more.
But these obscure internet companies have proven to be difficult to go after. For two years, representatives for DeGeneres and Bullock have sent out cease-and-desist orders, but once one site is taken down, another pops up in its place under a slightly different name or form.
“These companies change names frequently, merge in and out of entities formed in states that allow for secrecy, operate websites that pop up and disappear overnight, and generally do everything possible to ‘stay one step ahead of the sheriff,’” the complaint said, according to The New York Times.
Because DeGeneres and Bullock don’t know for sure who exactly is behind the fraud, the defendants have been listed as John Does 1 through 100 and their lawyers can now issue subpoenas to undercover them.
The Era of Affiliate Marketing and Scams
Their lawsuit brings the issue of fake celebrity endorsements to the forefront, a problem that has become especially more rampant for Hollywood stars thanks to scammers who prey on consumers in a growing era of affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is a popular way for online figures to earn money by promoting products and directing consumers to the online seller. In most cases, a click that generates a sale can earn the publisher a commission, though other types of compensation arrangements are sometimes also agreed upon.
It can be a very powerful marketing tool, especially when those promoting a product have built a strong reputation for trustworthiness with their audience.
According to estimates from Forrester Consulting, by next year the affiliate industry will be a $6.8 billion business, And while most participants are legitimate, others are not. Some take advantage of celebrities who have developed a strong reputation, as well as consumers who they may hold influence over.
Bullock and DeGeneres aren’t alone in being targeted by these shady websites. Stars over 40 whom the public considers trustworthy or admirable are often used for these scams, including celebs like Oprah Winfrey, Kelly Ripa, and Denzel Washington, who is often used to falsely promote erectile dysfunction pills.
As The Times points out, bombarding the web with these fake endorsements can actually be damaging to a celebrity’s reputation and hurt their ability to secure legitimate endorsement deals.
How It’s Done
A common trick these scammers use involves setting up websites “designed to look like legitimate and independent news reports or magazine articles about various Beauty products,” the complaint says.
Then they post real images of celebrities that have been doctored to become a fake endorsement. The lawsuit points to some examples, like one image of Bullock appearing on NBC’s Today show to promote a film. The image was converted into an ad that read: “Sandra Bullock Talks About Her New Skin Care Line,” despite the fact that Bullock has never had a skincare line.
The ad is then accompanied by a link that leads to a site selling the celebrity’s supposed product.
Another example in the suit shows that ads include fabrications like: “Sandra even admitted that plastic surgeons are furious with her after noticing a large decline in patients.”
In their complaint, DeGeneres and Bullock listed 40 beauty products that have been sold online with their names fraudulently linked.
“The celebrity endorsement-theft business model is based on a scheme to trick consumers into disclosing their credit card and/or debit card information in order to enroll them in costly programs with undisclosed, or poorly disclosed, recurring charges,” Bullock and DeGeneres said in the complaint. Ads for the products “typically include unsubstantiated claims that the products will lead to dramatic results,” they continued.
Many of these fake ads also offer free trials, but the complaint says that in reality, customers are often charged full price.
According to a 2018 report from the Better Business Bureau, offers of free trials put forward through this type of marketing “have infested the internet and social media” and cost more than a million victims upward of $1.3 billion over the past decade.
Along with claiming violations of their rights of publicity in the suit, DeGeneres and Bullock are claiming false advertising and unfair competition. The lawsuit demands an injunction and compensatory damages. First, though, the suit seems designed to kick off an investigation into responsibility for the marketing.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Hollywood Reporter) (The Los Angeles Times)
Lil Nas X Starts Bail Project Fund After Releasing Prison-Set Video for “Industry Baby”
The singer said he is working to address “the disproportionate impact that cash bail has on the black community.“
Lil Nas X Starts Bail X Fund
Following the release of his latest single “Industry Baby,” Lil Nas X launched a partnership with The Bail Project that aims to cover bail funds for people across the country.
The music video for the song took place in the fictional “Montero State Prison,” a reference to the title of his upcoming album and the singer’s real name. While Lil Nas X spent much of his time online promoting the video with memes, he put a pause on the jokes Saturday to announce the Bail X Fund and bring attention to issues regarding incarceration in the United States.
“On a serious note, I know the pain that incarceration brings to a family,” Lil Nas X tweeted. “And the disproportionate impact that cash bail has on the black community. That’s why I teamed up with @bailproject to create the Bail X Fund.”
The Bail Project aims to eliminate cash bail in the U.S. It has posted over $47 million in free bail for over 17,000 low-income people across the country. It also provides post-release support and services to those who need them.
“Music is the way I fight for liberation. It’s my act of resistance,” Lil Nas X wrote in a statement on the fund’s website. “But I also know that true freedom requires real change in how the criminal justice system works. Starting with cash bail.”
The Fight to End Cash Bail
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, like many issues within the criminal justice system, cash bail disproportionately harms Black Americans. The group claims that Black and brown defendants are somewhere between 10% to 25% “more likely than white defendants to be detained pretrial or to have to pay money bail.” It also argues that Black men are 50% more likely to be detained pretrial than white defendants, and says Black and brown defendants generally “receive bail amounts that are twice as high as bail set for white defendants – and they are less likely to be able to afford it.”
Lil Nas X said he is “doing something” to address these issues and invited his fans to join him. He hopes that his efforts will encourage other artists to use their platforms to likewise speak about these injustices.
“Ending cash bail is one of the most important civil rights issues of our time,” he wrote. “Donate what you can to the Bail X Fund. Let’s bring people home & let’s fight for freedom and equality.”
A donation tab was attached to the song’s music video, where it says nearly $44,000 has been raised for the Bail X Fund. The video has blown up on YouTube, racking up over 31 million views. It remains the number one trending video in music as of Monday morning.
The song has likewise found success on Spotify, where it debuted at number two and eventually reached the number one spot.
Fire at Home Reportedly Owned by Beyoncé and Jay-Z Under Arson Investigation
Officials said there were no injuries or evacuations during the fire, which was put out in around two hours.
Fire Breaks Out at Famed Couple’s Reported Residence
A Wednesday fire at a historic home in New Orleans, Louisiana believed to be owned by music titans Beyoncé and Jay-Z is being investigated as a possible arson.
On Thursday, a New Orleans Police Department spokesperson confirmed to multiple outlets that it had received a tip about a suspicious person in the area. Further details about the suspicious person and the cause of the fire have not been revealed.
Neighbors told local media that there is an unlocked gate on the property that outsiders sometimes use to gain entry.
Officials told The New York Post that it took 22 firefighters over two hours to extinguish the blaze, with no reported injuries or evacuations. The extent of the damage currently remains unclear, but a spokesperson told The Post that given the age of the residence, the situation could have been far more severe.
“If [the firefighters] didn’t get there when they did, it could have been much worse,” the spokesperson said. “It’s a historic home.”
About the Home
The building was first built in the Garden District neighborhood of the city in the 1920s as a church. It was later used as a ballet school and then became a high-end residence in 2000. Realtor.com says it is currently valued at $3 million.
The home was purchased in 2015 by Sugarcane Parkin LLC. According to The Washington Post, this company has the same registered address as other entities owned by Beyoncé. Sugarcane Parkin is also allegedly managed by Beyoncé’s mother, Celestine Lawson, better known as Tina Knowles.
Representatives for the “Lemonade” singer and her husband have not issued any public statements about the incident, nor have they confirmed that the home is owned by the couple.
In March of this year, storage units in Los Angeles belonging to Beyonce were burglarized. According to TMZ, over a million dollars of goods were stolen, including expensive dresses and handbags.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Post) (NOLA)
Cleveland’s Baseball Team Changes Name From Indians to Guardians
The move marks the team’s first name change since 1915, and it comes after decades of criticism from Native Americans.
Name Change Announced
Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team said Friday that it will change its name after the 2021 season from the Indians to the Guardians.
The team announced the name change with a just over two-minute video narrated by actor Tom Hanks.
“You see, there’s always been a Cleveland — that’s the best part of our name,” Hanks says in the clip. “And now it’s time to unite as one family, one community, to build the next era for this team and this city.”
This marks the team’s first name change since 1915, and it comes after decades of criticism from Native Americans.
Despite long-running calls to change racist and offensive team names — including the Washington Redskins — such campaigns did not gain significant momentum until the nationwide racial reckoning that followed the murder of George Floyd.
Officials behind the Cleveland team first pledged to change the name last year and previously removed the “Chief Wahoo” logo, a caricature of a Native American character, from its uniforms following the 2018 season.
It toyed with several options before ultimately landing on Guardians, which draws from Cleveland’s architectural history.
“We are excited to usher in the next era of the deep history of baseball in Cleveland,” team owner and chairman Paul Dolan said in a news release.
“Cleveland has and always will be the most important part of our identity. Therefore, we wanted a name that strongly represents the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders.”
“‘Guardians’ reflects those attributes that define us while drawing on the iconic Guardians of Traffic just outside the ballpark on the Hope Memorial Bridge. It brings to life the pride Clevelanders take in our city and the way we fight together for all who choose to be part of the Cleveland baseball family. While ‘Indians’ will always be a part of our history, our new name will help unify our fans and city as we are all Cleveland Guardians.”
Guardians will be the fifth name in franchise history, joining Blues (1901), Bronchos (1902), Naps (1903-14), and Indians (1915-2021).