FTC new rules to affect comics bloggers: disclose or be fined $11,000?
In a move guaranteed to accelerate the adoption of the PDF review copy, the Federal Trade Commission revised their “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials” (click here to download),
urging bloggers who review products, from a book or DVD to a video game
system, to disclose if they received the product for free when giving
an endorsement. According to the Washington Post, breaking these new guidelines could generate up to $11,000 in fines. (There are no penalties directly associated with violating the rules. But the FTC could seek a cease-and-desist order. If you ignore that, the fines start coming in.) These new guidelines will be put into
effect on December 1, 2009.
Bureau of Consumer Protection representative Richard Cleland was interviewed about the guidelines to clarify for blogging reviewers. In a statement that shows that he doesn’t understand how the book reviewing process works, Cleland said
that newspaper book reviewers are exempt because “the newspaper
receives the book and it allows the reviewer to review it, it’s still
the property of the newspaper.” Cleland saw no problem with a blogger receiving
a book, provided there wasn’t a linked advertisement to buy the book
and that the blogger did not keep the book after he had finished
reviewing it. Keeping the book would, from Cleland’s standpoint, count
as “compensation” and require a disclosure– but there would be no such disclosure required if the blogger took the item and sold it for cash or store credit? Huh? (Are they trying to put the Strand out of business?)
This may accelerate another trend I came across recently: I understand that at least one major website has cut their book reviews back from twice a week to twice a month– and this was before the announcement of these guidelines, so maybe it will just be easier to cut reviews altogether. But apparently, it’ll be fine for them to keep promoting their own product relentlessly, and will presumably do so.