Did you hear about the FTC sticking its nose into the blogosphere? Well for those who may not have access to the 81-page document or who may not have access to an attorney to decipher it for you I'm coming to your aid.
I put my in-house counsel on the case and here's what he says, take it as one legal opinion (though not advice) and use it as you will.
Michelle and I were watching TV the other night and saw a commercial for one of the hundreds of CSI wanna-be shows. This one was about a blogger who had been murdered. Michelle looked at me and said, “We’ve made it to the big time when crime shows are about killing bloggers.”
Big time is right. Bloggers are now regulated by the Federal Trade Commission which just came out with a new law (effective on December 1, 2009 – Merry Christmas!) that cover those free products bloggers receive with no strings attached. Here’s the what it means for you:
- If you buy a product on your own and you write about it, then you don’t have any worries.
- If you get a free product and write about it, but the product doesn’t cost much, you rarely receive free products, and don’t have a wide readership, then you probably don’t have anything to worry about.
- If you get a free product and write about and regularly receive such products and have a wide readership and the item is used by your targeted audience, then you should disclose who sent you the product and that you got it for free.
- If BMW send you a free car with the hopes that you’ll write about it on your blog, then I would say that you must disclose the goodness of BMW.
- If someone pays you to write about the product, then absolutely you should disclose the payment.
- "The ABC company sent me this new magic thing-a-ma-bob the other day for free. I’ve been using it and absolutely love it."
- "ABC COMPANY GAVE THIS TO ME." (LAWYERS LOVE ALL CAPS EVEN THOUGH IT’S HARD TO READ AND IS INTERPRETED AS SHOUTING).
- "Per 16 C.F.R. Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising I am required to notify you that I received the product from ABC Company without any payment or obligation or otherwise." (This one will really make the lawyers happy but will be totally overlooked by all your readers).
One other thing: you need to be really careful when you make any sort of statement about results of using products such as “I lost 200 lbs using this product.” Get legal advice on this one.
Another thing: it would be a good idea to send an email copy of your post to the company that sent you the product. They’re now required to monitor these posts.
*Now my disclaimer: This is not legal advice. I’m not your lawyer and you should seek legal advice on this matter because I know all of you have personal attorneys that are at your beck and call since you’re making millions from blogging.
Oh, if you don’t like obeying the law a good act of civil disobedience can’t hurt you, ie: Ghandi.
If you want to read all 81 pages of the new law, here’s the link: FTC Blogger Guidelines.
Update to add: Congratulations to Laura from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada for winning this weekend's Shabby Apple Fitness Wear Giveaway! No excuses not to exercise now!