Monday, October 05, 2009

Bloggers Beware!

From The New York Times, By The Associated Press

Published: October 5, 2009
Filed at 10:33 a.m. ET

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The Federal Trade Commission will require bloggers to clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products.

It is the first time since 1980 that the commission has revised its guidelines on endorsements and testimonials, and the first time the rules have covered bloggers.

But the commission stopped short Monday of specifying how bloggers must disclose any conflicts of interest.

The FTC said its commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the final guidelines, which had been expected. Penalties include up to $11,000 in fines per violation.

The rules take effect Dec. 1.


Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

Well, if I got paid for reviewing anything on my blog, I would probably die of shock and have nothing to disclose.

Dan Moran said...

Well, damn. There go all the kickbacks from Larry McMurtry.

Steve Perry said...

Yeah, I have mine ready:

Pursuant to FCC regulations regarding conflict of interest disclosure, I hereby state that I didn't get squat for this review, having paid for the book with my own money and having gotten no considerations, not a red cent, from the writer, who, by rights, owes me for being so nice. Have a nice day.

I suppose that if I review books by writers that I did first-readings for, I'll cop to that, but I don't think that's what the FCC is looking for with the new ruling.

Dojo Rat said...

I suppose that means we have to say that a company sent us the book we are reviewing free of charge?
For a twelve-dollar book?

Steve Perry said...

I'm not sure of that -- newspaper reviewers get boxes of books, and I don't think I've ever seen any kind of notice that these were freebies. That's what bound galleys are for, and since they aren't supposed to be sold, technically have no face value, though collectors sometimes like them down the line.

I'd guess what the FCC is looking for is to stop bloggers who exist strictly as shills -- somebody who gets paid to set up a blogsite and flack stuff as if they are "objective" readers.

All you'd have to do is put a note up top on your blog saying something like, "Although we sometimes receive free review copies of books, we are not otherwise compensated for our comments upon them."

Or if you review a freebie, a note at the bottom: A copy of this book was provided by the (publisher, editor, writer) at no charge to the reviewer. That satisfies the ruling as I understand it.

If you paid for it, or it was birthday present from a spouse or friend, then you can point that out.

Guy gives me a copy of his novel or I buy it, he gets the same review either way. I call 'em like I see 'em.

Steve Perry said...

Full disclosure in genre would get silly. In a lot of fields, everybody knows everybody. Most of the science fiction and fantasy novels I've reviewed, I've known the writers.

A lot of us run into each other at conventions. If writers who review had to stop talking about their friends (or enemies) they would miss a lot of what's being published.

Same thing in martial arts. They are both small towns. How many books came on on silat in English last year?
The last five years? Not many, and the ones I saw, I had a nodding acquaintance -- sometimes just over the net -- with the writers of all the ones I saw.

"I really liked this book and thought it was terrific. The fact that my daughter wrote it is just a coincidence."

Actually, I have skipped doing reviews sometimes because I was too close to the writer -- my daughter, a collaborator -- to avoid that obvious bias. But as long as you cop to it? You satisfy the FAA's requirement.

Mike said...

Nice to see the government is protecting us from those wicked, paid-off and biased bloggers. Too bad the same rules aren't applied to politicians and bureaucrats.