Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I Was Given the Book And I'm Keeping It


On one of the writers' lists I belong to there was a discussion today about the Federal Trade Commission's announcement that its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials would be revised in relation to bloggers. Specifically it states that bloggers will have to specify whether they receive compensation for their reviews.

When I first read these guidelines I thought the disclosure would only apply to bloggers who review high priced items such as electronics or software and are allowed to keep the items. But it appears they apply to book reviewers as well.

These guidelines will be effective December first of this year, and as best as I can decipher the legalese, it means that when I, or any other blogger who does book reviews, receive a book to read and review, I have to state that I was given the book. That way people can decide if my review is objective or I was "paid" to endorse the book.

Interestingly enough, these guidelines do not apply to reviewers who get paid by the publication in which the review appears. So I am okay when it comes to the reviews I do for ForeWord Magazine, but not the ones I do here on my blog or on other online sites.

Edward Champion did an interview with Richard Cleland of the Federal Trade Commission that is well worth a read. It covered the topic pretty well, although the point was not made that most of the review copies sent out are ARCs - at least most of what I receive are - so they could hardly be considered compensation since reviewers can't sell them.

Also, Cleland does not specify how the disclosure is to be made. Does it have to be in the body of the review? Does it have to be on every review? Will the FTC come after me with a warrant if I forget to include the disclosure?

Just to be safe, I may add a line at the bottom of all my review: Nobody bought my opinion.

9 comments:

Helen Ginger said...

I wonder if you could just post the disclaimer on your sidebar. It is aggravating that some people don't have to say they received a book, while others do. And how about if you receive a book from an author as a prize during a blog tour, then you review it? Do you still have to jump through hoops when it wasn't given to you with the specific purpose of getting a review?

This ruling is still unclear, in my opinion.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Mary Welk said...

Interesting, to say the least. Guess they'll have to form a committee of "Blogger Police" to watch over all of us who dare comment on the worthiness of a book!

Terry Odell said...

This is just too crazy to be real. There are a kazillion blogs where people give opinions of books.

I've not done reviews, but for totally different reasons. Looks like I won't be changing that.

Maryann Miller said...

I think this all started primarily because reviews got too closely associated with endorsements, which are direct marketing tools. Reviews are to, to a point, but since a review can be negative it is never called an endorsement. Although, some of the folks who post reviews on Amazon are obviously endorsing the book as opposed to writing a legitimate review. And in reading the FTC guidelines in detail it appears they are targeting blog reviews that include buy links, as that is perceived as an endorsement.

Stupid, I know, but so is 99% of the "guidelines" that our government comes up with.

Janalyn Voigt (Waysinger) said...

A friend of mine advised me that the FTC guidelines are just that - guidelines and not law. I'm still trying to sort out if fines would apply if I don't comply.

However, having said that, I have nothing to hide and don't fear "disclosure" so I've put a little blurb on my blog. To have to include it in every review would get annoying.

In the past I've included buy links when reviewing books as a courtesy to my readers but will stop doing so.

I think this whole thing is ridiculous. I've never felt pressured by publishers to give good reviews in exchange for a free book. At best, it's poor pay for my time in reading and reviewing a book. No one can buy my opinion anyway. It's priceless. ;o)

LuAnn said...

I like the idea of posting it on the sidebar. I really believe most people know we don't get paid to review books on our blog. I'd be curious where this all came from?

Maryann Miller said...

LuAnn, this started because the FTC started cracking down on people who received high-priced items to review -- actually endorse -- and kept them. That is seen as compensation. So, in cracking down on that practice the FTC decided to include books as products of compensation.

It is just typical government legalese that everybody thinks they have to enforce to the letter of the law and nobody can think outside the box.

Saw a perfect example of that last night on the TV show "Mercy". A nurse tries to get some rabies vaccine for a patient from another county hospital and the person in the pharmacy says she can't release it to cross county lines without a permit by the health department. That will take two weeks. The nurse is pleading with her, when another lady steps forward and tells the nurse to take the vaccine. Then tuns to the clerk and tells her there is a waiver to the rule. The clerk had never bothered to learn about the waiver.

Mary Welk said...

Maryann, I loved your example from "Mercy", not because it showed bureaucracy at its worst, but because it showed TV medical dramas at their worst. In reality, the hospital pharmacist would have made arrangements for the vaccine transfer from one facity to the other. Never ever would a nurse go to another hospital to pick up medication of any kind. Having had to do this in the ER for a snake bite victim when the anti-venom medication was found only at our local zoo, I know of what I speak. I hate it when TV gets it all wrong just to make a character look like a hero.

Maryann Miller said...

Thanks for the clarification. I thought that was a technical error from my experience working in a hospital, and I think that show is taking a lot of liberties. Not sure if I will stay with it, but thought I would give it a try.