On July 22, 2020, Clint Eastwood filed two separate lawsuits in federal court in Los Angeles against three CBD manufacturers and marketing companies that posted fabricated online articles falsely claiming that Eastwood endorsed CBD products, as well as ten online CBD retailers that allegedly manipulated search results to make it appear that he had endorsed their products. The court filings assert that “Mr. Eastwood has no connection of any kind whatsoever to any CBD products and never gave such an interview.”

According to the New York Times article on the lawsuits, the bizarre fake news stories claimed that Eastwood endorsed their products and was leaving filmmaking to focus on the CBD business. These same companies allegedly send spam emails with subject lines like, “Clint Eastwood Exposes Shocking Secret Today,” and containing a fake interview with an outlet intended to look like the “Today” show.

The second lawsuit against the online retailers claims that those retailers are “using programming code to insert Eastwood’s name into online search results for CBD products, misleading consumers into thinking the filmmaker is manufacturing or endorsing them.” This is unfortunately not the first time that unscrupulous CBD companies have attempted to falsely claim that celebrities have endorsed their products.

And of course, improperly using the names and likenesses of celebrities to promote product sales is a tactic that companies have attempted to use for as long as celebrities have existed. This is why in California, we have a body of law around the “Right of Publicity,” which protects against the unauthorized use of a person’s name or likeness for commercial or exploitative purposes. This body of law is based both in common law and in statute. Under Cal. Civ. Code § 3344: