Pub Rants

Blog Reviewer? Disclose Or Face Fines. Seriously.

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STATUS: My favorite—reviewing 50 pages of legalese in a film option contract. Not. Grin.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I’M GONNA BE (500 MILES) by The Proclaimers

Oh this is rich. This just in from Wired. The FTC is now telling Amateur Bloggers to disclose that they’ve gotten free review copies or ARCs or face fines.

FTC wants tweet disclosures as well.

What a happy can of worms to open. Can you say hard to enforce?

29 Responses

  1. Donna said:

    The book blogging world has completely exploded about this. From an interview done with a blogger and a member of the FTC, he’s claiming that they’re going to be going after the publishers as opposed to bloggers simply because they’re easier to enforce than the thousands of us.

    But on the other side, they’re considering any ARC retained as a form of compensation and some kind of unstated promise that the review is going to be positive. That’s the first I’ve known about that! I’m supposed to give, without question, a positive review for every ARC I receive because I’m somehow being “paid” for it with that same ARC? I don’t think so.

    There’s a lot of confusion and apparently there are still a lot of kinks in the bill that the FTC needs to work out. But, at the end of the day, us book bloggers are innocent but guilty bystanders in it all. It was supposed to be focused on product, for-cash review blogs who more genuinely fit into that mould. But we got sucked into it too because we receive “products” as “payment.” At least according to them.

    An easy way to avoid disclosure? Send the ARC back to the publisher. Yeah, ok.

  2. Kristi Faith said:

    I heard about this earlier today and felt pretty much the same way that you so eloquently expressed.

    I wonder myself how well this will all work……the internet is a large area to police.

    Love your eclectic choice in music, btw-I almost always say “Oh yeah! I love that song!” Thanks for reminding me. 🙂

  3. Ben-M said:

    I wonder if they’ll take ‘hard to enforce’ and overcompensate for it with punitive damages. Such as when Jammie Thomas was sued $1.9M for file sharing 24 songs on the internet.


  4. MeganRebekah said:

    I was so intrigued by all of this I read the entire 81 page document (yes, my eyes were glazed over by the end of the nigh yesterday, but it made for an interesting blog post). The FTC’s guidelines are so generalized that it’s clear at they don’t have a solid sense of direction. They have valid concerns, but are addressing those concerns too early and without a realistic plan that can be enforced.

    I think Janet Reid had a great response by putting up a large disclaimer on the sidebar of her blog. Made me laugh!

  5. Anonymous said:

    Wow. I almost hate to commenton this. But am I the only one who thinks that some book review blogs need to be checked out?

    The Internet, in general, is like the Wild West Before any laws were enforced. And there are more than a few questionable book review blogs.

    I’ve been studying review blogs for a long time. I even started a review blog of my own, as an undercover experiment, to see what would happen and how I’d be approached by writers and publishers. And though no one in the mainstream would be interested in the things I’ve learned, the writing community would be shocked at how much corruption I’ve seen.

    signed a gut-less anon…

  6. Jill Edmondson said:

    Good grief!

    Beyond the obvious “hrd to police” angle, I am concerned about the commercialization of reviewing… plug plug plug… Slant towards this publisher or that publisher.

    I think it would be a different kettle of fish (maybe!) if the blogs were in someway commericla in the first place (this would lead towards full disclosure).

    But in most cases (at least with the blogs I follow), they are individual, a single person’s point of view, maybe thay have a blog for the fun of it or a hobby, and here it is – a cool place to share thoughts, ideas… and opinions (on books!)

    Good grief!


  7. Anonymous said:

    …That sounds, shall we say… tedious?

    I love “I’m Gonna Be” by The Proclaimers, though! Excellent song.


  8. Bradley Robb said:

    Thankfully, the burden of proof lies with the accusing body, in this case the FTC.

    I expect they’ll likely go after the pay-to-play bloggers – those who directly receive financial compensation in return for posting positive or boiler plate reviews and everyone else will likely be fine. Why? Paper trails. The Congressional Ethics commission has a hard enough time tracing private jet rides to corporate accounts, what’s the likelihood of the FTC being able to sniff out ARCs? There’s no fines being lobbied against those providing the books, so there’s no motivation for them to stop sending them. And the reviewers are far too many to effectively stop.

    And when publishers start sending out digiARCs, the whole thing is going to become nearly untraceable.

    But isn’t it fun to be painted with the same brush as celebrities when it comes to product endorsements?

  9. K Zoe said:

    Meh. I don’t see it as a big deal for most of us.

    All reviewers have do to is include a short disclaimer “The review copy of book was provided to me by XYZ publishing.” and that (in my interpretation of the guidelines) should satisfy the new rules.

  10. Tris said:

    MeganRebekah, thanks for clarifying on your blog this FTC guideline… I’m so glad I’m Aussie… and will keep reviewing and receiving free books!! =P

  11. Ellen said:

    I heard a woman in Portland almost went into a Barnes & Noble because her sister-in-law recommended a book on her blog. Thank god we have the FTC to protect us.

  12. Carradee said:

    I’ve poked into the paid-to-review sites, and as I recall, you can accept or refuse assignments. I never actually worked for one, but even if I had, I only would’ve accepted assignments that I could honestly review positively.

    My friend gave me Evanescence’s CD The Open Door, so I received a free product, and epinions practices revenue sharing, so I was paid to review it. Is that review positive? No.

  13. Anonymous said:

    Well, this will help the free market immensely.

    Is somebody going to demand a halt to free samples in the food court? It would only be fair.

  14. Lori said:

    I doubt the FTC is going to fine bloggers without revising the guidelines to further spell out what exactly is allowed and not allowed.

  15. behlerblog said:

    I think FTC’s Richard Cleland put it all into perspective when he said, “If a blogger received enough books, he could open up a used bookstore.”

    Um. Yeah. Pity these guys like to meddle in affairs for which they are unprepared and uneducated.

  16. Dara said:

    Yeah, that’s gonna work :rolls eyes:

    You can’t really fine someone if you don’t know how to figure out who that someone is.

    And don’t they have better things to do than to waste time finding out every single person who does this?

  17. Eric Riback said:

    This is all well and good as long as all media that review anything they have received free need to make the same disclosure. Thus, every PW review should have a disclaimer along with every review in the Times.

    The irony is that the good bloggers out there (and I’m really not thinking of book bloggers anyhow) tend to be scrupulous about disclosing their relationships. The FTC ruling should be limited to cash compensation, trips, or gifts that are not review samples regardless of the product, and the same rule should apply to all media.

    Thus, any media that receive a fam(iliarization) trip, a visit to P&G headquarters and the like, should be disclosed.

    I agree there are legit concerns, but the FTC seems to be out of touch with reality and need to tighten up this rulemaking.

    It should also be noted that print media have a tradition of disclosure that is self-regulated, but given the strains in publishing, the FTC shouldn’t count on that continuing. The “Chinese wall” is crumbling, especially in the magazines.

  18. Anonymous said:

    Here’s a solution: All ARCs should be distributed by publishers as e-copies only via amazon, since their e-books are actually really only on loan anyway, then deleted remotely after a given time period.

  19. Nick said:

    Everything comes down to source. A trusted blogger (or any other review source) is trusted because of their honesty. If a book is bad and a reviewer fabricates a review because they received a free copy then their readers will see through it and leave. I agree with the comments above that its probably a CYA strategy.