Reality television star Bethenny Frankel is suing TikTok over for allegedly failing to prevent users from misappropriating her identity to hawk counterfeit goods on the social media service.
“For some time, 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,” her lawyers allege in a class-action complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Frankel, who formerly starred in “Real Housewives of NYC,” is seeking to bring the suit on behalf of everyone in the U.S. whose name or image was misappropriated to sell counterfeits on TikTok.
The complaint alleges that the videos she reported to TikTok are now removed, but that she still must “constantly monitor for and police” the service for the unauthorized use of her name and likeness to sell fakes.
She claims that TikTok violated her “right of publicity” -- a right grounded in state law that allows people to control the commercial use of their names and images.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act broadly protects web companies from liability for users' posts, but there's an exception for posts that infringe intellectual property rights.
It's not clear whether that exception would apply to the New York-based “right of publicity” claim asserted by Frankel, but a federal appellate court in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware) ruled last year that Section 230 did not protect Facebook from a similar claim.