AceShowbiz - Bethenny Frankel is dragging TikTok to court. "The Real Housewives of New York City" alum has sued the video-sharing platform over advertisements that used her video and image to sell counterfeit products.
In paperwork filed Thursday, October 6 in New York federal court, the 51-year-old reality star accused the platform of illegally profiting off of failing to snuff out advertising partners who misappropriate the images and voices of influencers to peddle bogus goods. She's pushing for policy changes to enhance protections around the likeness of creators.
"Unscrupulous companies and individuals have purloined the images, voices, and content of Ms. Frankel and Class Members to sell counterfeit items through the use of TikTok's platform," read the complaint. "Despite demands on TikTok to remove and police this corrupt conduct, TikTok has ignored such demands, and even taken countervailing positions."
Bethenny further pointed out an ad featuring her endorsing a knockoff cardigan. She stated that a scammer edited one of her previous posts talking about a different cardigan to make it appear as if she's promoting the knockoff. When she posted a video warning her followers of the fake ad, TikTok removed her post as "abusive."
"Ms. Frankel has invested substantial effort in preserving, protecting, and honing her reputation, and has amassed substantial goodwill and a favorable reputation during her career," the complaint reads. "By misappropriating Ms. Frankel's voice and likeness, TikTok has not only traded on Ms. Frankel's earned goodwill but is also depriving Ms. Frankel of the ability to control her reputation."
In addition to seeking compensation for damages after her reputation "suffered significant injury and irreparable harm," Bethenny is requesting changes to TikTok's advertising policy which she claims doesn't "police" these kinds of ads.
Influencers like Bethenny have to "constantly monitor for and police any unauthorized use of their name, portrait, picture and voice to ensure that counterfeiters and other unauthorized parties do not peddle counterfeited and other unauthorized products using their personas, voices, content, or likenesses," the lawsuit continued. "This requires substantial time and investment from the content creators, effort which is not always successful, and it is not compensated by TikTok in any form whatsoever."
The former Bravolebrity later doubled down on her suit and encouraged fellow influencers to speak up if they find themselves also being "violated without protection" in the "reckless marketplace." She wrote on Instagram on Thursday, "I have a voice. It's my right and responsibility to use it and to encourage others to constructively do so as well."
"Consumers and creators are being exploited with no recourse or power to defend and protect themselves. That ends now," Bethenny declared. She then added that she "won't stop" her crusade until "myself, my community and our children are protected."
A spokesperson from TikTok told the Washington Post that they already have "strict policies to both protect people's hard-earned intellectual property and keep misleading content off of TikTok." The rep added, "We regularly review and improve our policies and processes in order to combat increasingly sophisticated fraud attempts and further strengthen our systems."
Prior to filing the lawsuit, Bethenny expressed her disappointment in a TikTok video. "This is something that has to be addressed because it's a breeding ground for scams," she said in September 18 post. "What if this really really damaged my image? Because a lot of people are feeling like, 'oh she sold out.' These people are garbage, scumbag scoundrel scammers stealing, and their products are garbage, and don't buy them."