Search nearly any television show on Youtube and you’ll find millions of clips from the production companies themselves and from fans. Search practically any company logo and you’ll find it posted a million times from sellers like Amazon to review websites that make money through ads. While most companies are happy to have their content and logos marketed for free on the web, Oprah Winfrey and her HARPO Productions are hell bent on stopping ‘fair use’ and ‘free speech’ that they don’t directly profit from. Basically if you don’t pay – You don’t play.
While hundreds of “big advertiser” companies and Hollywood celebrities tout their appearances on the Dr. Oz Show without any problems, parent company HARPO Productions has been threatening small family businesses with lawsuits for even mentioning that their products were legitimately on the show. One such company is Greensations Skin Care, a natural health and beauty company that makes a variety of small-batch products. In 2012, Dr. Oz featured Greensations Cellulite Butter on his show and sales went through the roof. As a proud small American business, Greensations management posted a video of the Dr. Oz appearance along with showing the logo on their various websites only saying “As seen on the Dr. Oz Show.”
While Greensations Cellulite Butter was legitimately featured on the show and the company did not make any claims about Dr. Oz promoting the product, their small family business was nonetheless threatened with lawsuits from HARPO Productions and the Dr. Oz Show.
“All we did was the same thing everyone who’s on a big tv show does. Shark Tank contestants do it all the time and so do all the celebrities and companies that appear on HARPO shows, Dr. Oz or anything on the Oprah Cable Network. So why not us? It’s not like we lied or something. Doctor Oz featured our Cellulite Butter on his show. That’s a fact and so it’s fair use to say our product was on the show, but we couldn’t afford to fight them and so we deleted the content which isn’t fair. The next thing you know they’ll be suing us for having links to their websites,” says Niles Porter, Public Relations VP for Greensations.
While the “Fair Use” policy has been used by news organizations and non-fiction productions for decades, the case is stronger for copyrighted content than for trademarks, mainly because trademark issues have only become relevant with the growth of the internet. Anyone can save a logo image and post it on the web these days which is obviously a legitimate concern for corporations, but there’s still a place for “fair use” and “free speech” as far as most small American businesses are concerned.