Updated: Oct 5, 2021
Celebrated actor Clint Eastwood and the company that owns the rights to his likeness won a $6.1 million lawsuit October 1 against a company accused of using his image and likeness to advertise CBD products, reports the New York Times.
Here’s why that’s a good thing for people buying CBD, and for reputable CBD companies.
Clint Eastwood at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival | Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The Lawsuit Eastwood filed two lawsuits in 2020 against three CBD makers and marketers, saying they used images of him to trick potential buyers into thinking he’d endorsed the products.
According to the Times, Eastwood alleged that the companies’ “products were featured in an online article falsely claiming that he endorsed CBD products, […] the online article contained a fake interview with an outlet meant to resemble the ‘Today’ show. It included a photo of Mr. Eastwood from an actual appearance on ‘Today,’ as well as links to buy the items.”
Eastwood had no connection to any CBD products and the interview never happened, according to court documents.
In February 2021, Eastwood’s lawyers amended their complaint, targeting the the company that owns the websites that published the false stories, rather than the CBD companies themselves.
The company that published the interview failed to respond to a court summons in March. The United States District Court judge hearing the case entered a default judgement, awarding $6 million for unauthorized use of his name and likeness, and another $95,000 in legal fees. The judge also ordered a permanent injunction barring the company from using Eastwood's name or likeness again.
Eastwood also pursued a libel charge but the judge didn’t award it, writing that the claims in the article were not obviously defamatory — or at least that more information would be needed to award the claim.
“It requires additional context to understand what CBD products are and why a person like Clint Eastwood would not endorse a marijuana-based product,” wrote the judge.
Scammers Held Accountable
Using a celebrity’s name and image to fabricate an endorsement for CBD products is, unfortunately, a pretty common scam. It’s sometimes used in tandem with underhanded tactics such as signing people up for a “free trail,” then charging them hundreds of dollars.
This undermines the credibility of the larger hemp industry, including reputable CBD companies making high-quality products and selling them ethically.
That’s why it’s good news — even for CBD companies — that this lawsuit might make fake celebrity endorsements less attractive to scammers.
Six million dollars is a big risk for any company, whether they’re making the CBD or marketing it. In this case, the company that will have to pay is the one that allegedly published the fabricated endorsement, not the CBD manufacturers themselves. Still, it’s a strong incentive to keep such advertising off the web.
And from the other direction, with a high-profile actor winning the suit (and a large sum of money), other celebrities might be more likely to follow suit if their likeness is used without permission.
Words from Jordan Susman, a lawyer for Eastwood: “In pursuing this case, and obtaining this judgment, Mr. Eastwood has again demonstrated a willingness to confront wrongdoing and hold accountable those who try to illegally profit off his name, likeness, and goodwill.”
Yes, you’ll still have to watch out for the "free trial" offer, but it could be less likely that a celebrity’s image will be used to create a false sense of legitimacy.