Actress Sandra Bullock and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres teamed up to oppose fake celebrity endorsements on Wednesday, filing a joint lawsuit against roughly 100 entities who allegedly used their likeness to promote products and services without their permission or consent.
Filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, the lawsuit alleges that the defendants – identified as John Does 1 through 100 – used fake images and quotes from the two celebrities to promote products ranging from skincare lotions to weight loss supplements. The court documents detail specific instances in which DeGeneres and Bullock were featured in fake endorsements, such as one case in which Bullock was linked to a skincare line that did not exist.
According to the lawsuit, the defendants build websites designed to look like legitimate vendors or media sites in order to sell products, many of which make unproven claims about their effectiveness. The "publications on the fake media sites feature comments and endorsements purportedly from Bullock and DeGeneres — all of which are fake and fraudulent and published without Plaintiffs' consent,” the suit adds, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The two celebrities allege that the fraudulent operators engaged in false advertising and unfair competition. They are seeking an injunction to block further advertisements and financial damages.
Kinsella Weitzman and Lavely & Singer, the law firms representing DeGeneres and Bullock, did not immediately respond to requests for further comment.
The unnamed defendants are active in affiliate marketing, a multibillion-dollar industry in which publishers use digital advertisements to direct consumers to e-commerce platforms in exchange for a cut of the sales. The lawsuit identifies Amazon and Hulu as online platforms that use the practice to drive traffic to their sites.
While affiliate marketing is a legal and widely accepted business practice, the use of celebrity likenesses or images without permission is illegal.