Monday, October 5, 2009

Yet Another Post on the New FTC Guidelines

As this affects a great deal of bloggers, you've probably already read a post somewhere on the new FTC guidelines. Just in case you haven't, here's the basic scoop.

Today the FTC published their guidelines pertaining to testimonial advertisements, bloggers and celebrity endorsements. As of December 1, 2009 it is required that bloggers fully disclose any types of payment, which includes products received for free for review purposes. Violation of this could result in paying a fine amounting up to $11,000.

When I first got home from work and saw all the panic on Twitter and in blog posts, I started feeling a bit panicky myself. Eleven thousand dollars is quite a hefty punishment for not mentioning you reviewed a book you received that's worth $7.99. Then I read what Cheryl of Cheryl's Mewsings had to say about it and felt quite a bit better. It does sound as though book bloggers are not the main concern and are not likely to be closely monitored (I would hope not).

I have the same feelings on this as many of my fellow bloggers have stated in their own posts on it. Disclosing what I receive does not bother me, but being forced to does, especially with such a high penalty for failure to meet this requirement. Plus it seems like a rather difficult thing to regulate. How do they know I did or didn't buy a book myself if it's one that I reviewed close to the time of or after the release date?

I've decided not to get too worked up about it, but from now on, I will be stating exactly where I got any book I am reviewing - whether or not I bought it myself, received it from the publisher or author, won it in a contest, was forced to read it at gunpoint against my will, etc. It will probably be somewhere at the end of my review - I'll have to decide where it fits best next time I write one (hoping to get to that review of Doubleblind soon).

Although I have never been paid to write a review, I do occasionally receive review copies (and on one occasion a bookshelf and a couple of times books for giveaways). Most of the books I have reviewed here are ones I have bought myself, but some of them have been books publishers or authors have sent me. Lately I've been reviewing more of these books as I have begun receiving more of them.

I never, ever promise to write a positive review in return for a book, nor do I feel obligated to write one just because I received a free copy in the mail, just like the vast majority of book bloggers. Most of us blog because we love reading and talking about the books we read - sure, the free books are a nice bonus, but most of us are book addicts buy enough books on our own that we're not going to suffer if someone is so offended by a review that they quit sending us ARCs.

Any further thoughts/rants on the new FTC guidelines?


Tia Nevitt said...

I just wonder if it will lead to other things down the road. These sort of encroachments of liberty tend to come in increments.

I started disclosing such information as well, starting with today's review. I really don't get many review copies, but the few I get keeps me busy.

orannia said...

Hmmmm...I think the person behind this is taking things to the extreme. But thank you Kristen for clarifying where you stand :) I've always found your reviews to be very fair and honest.

Anonymous said...

If anything influence how people review it's the comments from ignorant people when there is a negative review :) such as name calling, and nasty comments on things that are said.

Getting a free book isn't going to make me like a book.

Ripley said...

It's going to end up as a tax thing. I just know it.

Harry Markov said...

I have discussed this in a post of my own, but I am not sure what the FTC wants to accomplish with this disclosure. It seems like pointless effort.

John said...

@Ripley: I agree, eventually. The only question is going to be where the cutoff is for who pays and who doesn't.

writtenwyrdd said...

Thanks. This is thoughtful and I think you are right on with your sense of things. My first glance at this issue had me thinking they were specifically targeting general bloggers, but perhaps it is the 'phony' sites that are paid to essentially write nice reviews without disclosing?

ediFanoB said...

I love to read books and I like to share my opinions about books.
I own a copy of each book I reviewed so far. But how want they check whether I bought, stole, lend, won or received a review copy of the book which I reviewed. Will someone from FTC visit me in Germany? Do I have to scan each proof of purchase and post it beside the cover of the book? And shall I add my social security number?

I would be a lot easier to prohibit reviewer copies, giveaways and so on.
Why not prohibit book reviews? Or even better book blogs.
No. No good idea because they don't get money.

Best idea is that you have to pay for each review you write or publishers have to pay tax for each reviewer copy.

You have the same bureaucrats in US like we have in the European Union.
They spend the whole day thinking about how they can make life more difficult for us.If you would spend all the money they waste you could feed a lot of poor children.

I alway get angry when I read this kind of stuff.

Kristen said...

Tia - It is a bit worrisome that this may be the slippery slope that leads to worse things. Until that happens, I'm going to try not to worry about it too much, though. Perhaps they will see there is really no need to regulate this for things like book blogging.

Orannia - Yes, it is a bit extreme. I think most people realize a lot of bloggers receive products for free - it's no big secret. And if readers feel these people are just in it for the free stuff, I imagine they won't take that person too seriously and will quit reading.

And thank you - I am very glad to hear that you think my reviews are fair and honest. There's no higher compliment. :)

Anonymous - It is rather silly. Just because the book is free does not mean you will like it. And if a reviewer gushes about everything they review, people are going to stop listening to them no matter where they got the product from. They don't need full disclosure to know if the reviewer is helpful to them or not.

Ripley and John - Ugh, I hope not. Although it is entirely possible.

Harry - I agree, it does seem pretty pointless. I read your article on it and you raised some good points. It's absolutely true that the blogger's history and reputation is what is important. The main reason I enjoy reading blogs is that the people who blog mainly do so because they enjoy reading and trying to help others find books they will enjoy (or steer clear of those they may not).
They have to enjoy it to spend so much of their spare time on it.

Writtenwyrd - That's the impression I got after reading Cheryl's post on it. Guess we'll have to see what happens, but for now I'm going to avoid getting too panicky about it.

ediFanoB - It is rather silly that they plan to regulate all that. I'm not quite sure how they expect to keep track of where you get every single item you review either. Hopefully it won't end up changing the book blogosphere too much. And yes, they definitely have better things they could be worrying about than people reviewing products they received for free.

Harry Markov said...

I just do not think that this is the most pressing issue your government needs to solve. It's true that there exists a certain number of bloggers, who are biased and sell-outs, but I think that on the font of the economic crisis and staggering number of people with no jobs deserves more attention.

Kristen said...

Harry - Yes, definitely - there are far bigger concerns to worry about than blogging. The unemployment problem definitely deserves more money, time, and energy as well as any number of other things. Really, monitoring bloggers is a very trivial issue.