A Case That Has It All: Kim Kardashian, Twitter, Libel, Cookie Diets... And The New FTC Sponsorship Rules

from the i-want-a-cookie dept

Oh boy. Here's a fun one. You had to expect that there would be more defamation lawsuits about Twitter following the first one involving Courtney Love, but this one is quite impressive, considering of all the twists and turns that must be followed. It involves some company promoting something called "The Cookie Diet" (which appears to be exactly what you would think) suing Kim Kardashian for libel. If you don't keep up with pop culture, Kim Kardashian is one of those people famous for being famous. The details of the lawsuit, though, are somewhat complex, and it's difficult to figure out who to side with in this trainwreck in progress (and, yes, it seems pretty likely that the whole thing is a publicity stunt for all involved, but that doesn't mean it's not worth covering).

So, basically, the story is that this "cookie diet" supposedly has some fans in Hollywood, and a variety of media have covered the story. Some of those media reports claimed that Kardashian (among many others) were fans of the diet. The Cookie Diet people -- like you would expect -- have a page on their website that links to news coverage, including a story (which they had nothing to do with) that said Kardashian used the diet. At some point, they also sent Kardashian's publicist a box of the cookies.

At some point towards the end of last year, Kardashian saw the link on the website and got upset, posting two Twitter messages saying the following:
  • "Dr. Siegal's Cookie Diet is falsely promoting that I'm on this diet. NOT TRUE! I would never do this unhealthy diet! I do QuickTrim!"
  • If this Dr. Siegal is lying about me being on this diet, what else are they lying about? Not cool!"
After that, her lawyers sent the Cookie Diet people a letter demanding that it remove the link to the story. It's unclear on what legal grounds the demand was made, as the diet company insists it had nothing to do with the story, did not supply the information and, in fact, had no knowledge that Kardashian had tried the diet. However, they did remove the link. It was only then that they noticed the Twitter messages and... then we get the lawsuit.

OK. So far we've already got some confusion about whether a link to a news article is actionable, combined with a Twitter libel claim. But then the story gets even more bizarre. You see, there's been a lot of talk lately about Kardashian being the most high profile client of some company that gets people to post sponsored Twitter messages. In fact, reports claim that some companies are paying her $10,000 per sponsored message. This may or may not be true, but if it is true, then the companies paying that money are likely getting seriously ripped off because they don't understand how Twitter works and how follower counts are grossly inflated.

So, what does this have to do with the cookies? Well, the cookie people are noting in the legal filing that Kardashian is paid to promote QuickTrim, but that she failed to note this. How does that become important? Well... you may recall last year's kerfuffle over the new FTC "guidelines" about paid endorsements online. While the cookie people don't specifically bring this up, it's certainly implied that Kardashian's paid sponsorship had something to do with her messages against the cookie people.

It's hard to see either side as being worth defending here, but sit back, grab a cookie and enjoy watching the legal arguments fly.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Robert Ring (profile), Jan 6th, 2010 @ 11:27am

    Our first high-profile example of the problems with the new FTC rules. Woohoo!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2010 @ 11:35am

    You know, when I first saw the ads for the Cookie Diet, I noticed that it had a patent pending and owned by what looked like a lawfirm, which I thought was odd. But then I realized that sometimes families have their little fights. Eventually, I chalked it up to one of Mike Masnick's Secret Jey family members having a Jewie great day.

     

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  3.  
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    scarr (profile), Jan 6th, 2010 @ 11:36am

    Is this the kind of thing lawyers dream about? This is such a mess on so many levels, it'll take ages for them to sort through it all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2010 @ 11:41am

    Mike,

    Are you *trying* to induce all of us to blow our New Year's resolutions with all this talk of cookies?!?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jan 6th, 2010 @ 11:46am

    Well hey

    I'm not a KK fan (she's one of those "I know PCs so I know computers" people) but she's not "famous for being famous," she's (sorta) famous for having a radio show (and, I imagine, web presence, and obviously Twitter.)

    That said, I'm still unsure what the complaint is here.

    As for the cash-for-tweets, yeah, it's a thing. Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day both mentioned it this past week (they're not doing it.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    kevjohn (profile), Jan 6th, 2010 @ 11:54am

    Re: Well hey

    You might as well argue that P. Hilton is famous for being an actress and singer. She only got the radio show, the "web presence" and the Twitter followers for being famous for being famous.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    angelica, Jan 6th, 2010 @ 12:12pm

    Really?

    People still use Twitter? That's so 2009.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Bubba Gump (profile), Jan 6th, 2010 @ 12:45pm

    Re:

    By "high-profile", I hope you're not referring to Ms. Kardashian's derriere.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Casey, Jan 6th, 2010 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Really?

    Ok, what the hot new thing. I don't want to be accused of being behind the times :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Bubba Gump (profile), Jan 6th, 2010 @ 12:57pm

    Re: Re: Really?

    I hear chatting around the water cooler at work is coming back.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    a-dub (profile), Jan 6th, 2010 @ 12:57pm

    "it's certainly implied that Kardashian's paid sponsorship had something to do with her messages against the cookie people."

    That's exactly what I was thinking. The only reason she's upset about it is because she's being paid to promote QuickTrim...without that, this whole thing is a non issue. Who cares what diet she's on....when it comes to Kim Kardashian, my only thoughts are when is the next sex vid or Playboy spread coming out b/c her ass is AMAZING!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Josh (profile), Jan 6th, 2010 @ 12:58pm

    "kerfluffle" I never get tired of that word. Or cookies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 6th, 2010 @ 1:01pm

    Well...

    "So far we've already got some confusion about whether a link to a news article is actionable"

    Okay, here's the way it can be actionable:

    It's well known among those that have even had the slightest rub with select industries that their trade and even consumer magazine journalists are essentially pay for publication. Even those that don't outright pay to have these artiles written and published pay for it some other way, usually in the form of a list of business partners that are then hit up for advertising revenue. It's an extremely unethical and dirty business. Industries known to partake in this practice include: Construction, dietary suppliments, health/pharma, and (you guessed it) health/diet programs and suppliments.

    So, if the basis for such an article in which KK was listed as a believer was an "interview" with these cookie diet folks, and those folks either paid outright for the article to be written or in the form of a vendor/partner list for advertising revenue, then a link could be made and one could very easily infer that they were the ones who supplied KK's name to begin with.

    Muscle suppliments are the worst of the industries, where EAS or another company list on their website all of these "articles" they directly paid for. This smells the same to me....

     

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  14.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jan 6th, 2010 @ 1:13pm

    Re: Re: Well hey

    That's not how I came across her, but you may be correct.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2010 @ 1:27pm

    You too can accomplish your New Years Resolutions with Freshology!

    I don't enjoy the Cookie Diets. They're too easy to go off. Add a cup of milk and *BAM*, you've messed up your diet. I tell you what, I've had better luck with Freshology. http://Freshology.com/DietDelivery

    You should check them out. For a limited time, I believe they're giving 15% off for all TechDirt commentators and also free shipping. Just enter promo code "ImASecretJew".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 6th, 2010 @ 1:30pm

    Re: You too can accomplish your New Years Resolutions with Freshology!

    "You should check them out. For a limited time, I believe they're giving 15% off for all TechDirt commentators and also free shipping. Just enter promo code "ImASecretJew"."

    Okay, I have to say, despite all my best efforts, that had me giggling for several minutes....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2010 @ 2:04pm

    I thought the Kardashians were simply the bad guys on Star Trek...

     

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  18.  
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    NullOp, Jan 6th, 2010 @ 2:28pm

    Yeah..

    What America needs is no way for people to become "Famous for being Famous"! The likes of KK and PH we can do without. There are plenty of people with real talent out there. We DON'T need "Pretty People"!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jan 6th, 2010 @ 3:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Well hey

    Oops. I'm an idiot. I was conflating her with Kim Kommando.

    Yeah, I've no idea who this KK is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2010 @ 7:16pm

    The government/FCC creates ridiculous laws, they should expect ridiculous lawsuits. At least this will bring more attention to stupid FCC laws and the problems they bring.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2010 @ 7:18pm

    Re:

    Exactly, a lawyers paradise. They make all sort of money and no one knows why because nothing makes any sense at all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Dementia (profile), Jan 7th, 2010 @ 4:56am

    Re:

    That would be the FTC, not the FCC. I know, I know, its all alphabet soup, but FTC even appears in blue in the article.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2010 @ 1:40pm

    C is for cookie, why cant that be good enough for her?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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