Monday, October 05, 2009

Now Under FTC Regulation

In case you haven’t heard, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has come out with some new regulations that include blogs and bloggers. Basically, if you receive something from someone, you need to disclose it. For this blog, that means when I receive books from publishers, I need to disclose it. If I were getting paid by these publishers (which I’m not), I’d need to disclose that as well. Cheryl Morgan has pretty good summary of the situation with some links to other reactions.

So, how does this affect me? Well, the FTC isn’t going to be after small-time individuals like me, so I don’t have anything to worry about. However, I already abide by these new rules and have as long as I’ve been getting books from publishers and other sources. I’m squeaky clean J. For those interested in full discloser for this blog, check out my
Books I’ve Received post (also permanently linked in sidebar). It shows all the books I’ve received from publishers and similar sources and names the source – both books I’ve already reviewed and that I haven’t. Heck, I even categorize them based on how likely it is that I will review them. I update as I’m able every week or two.

So, no sweat for me around here – though I suppose others should get their houses in order just to be on the safe side.

I am a bit conflicted on whether I think this is a good or bad thing. Honestly, I haven’t devoted much though to it and I haven’t been following the reactions that I’m sure are flooding the web today. But, I am curious to hear what the good readers of Neth Space think, so please share.


Alec said...

Yea, I honestly think we don't have anything to worry about. Especially from the wording of the thing they are going after bigger fish.

Maybe I should have a disclosure policy too.... hmmmm......

TK42ONE said...

A lot of people are flipping their lids about this, myself included. But I think I differ from most in that I don't much like the idea of them (the FTC) telling me how to run my blog AND how to report compensation. When it comes to running my blog, I'd like to think I can do pretty much what I want when it comes to reviewing books. When it comes to reporting compensation (just a fancy way of saying income), I'd rather leave that up to the IRS. Sounds crazy, I know, but I work with the IRS and their rules everyday, so I'd rather deal with something I know.

As to how it will impact me, it won't. Not only am I small time, but I don't advertise on my blog. Which means I don't have to disclose anything.

And going back to my IRS arguement, I make no money from my blog, so I don't have to report anything as income. And even on the off chance that the IRS (or the FTC) wanted to push things, I have plenty of receipts that can easily prove I pay MORE to ship books to other people than I could every make in selling or making money on what I have.

Adam Whitehead said...

That's annoying.

Luckily there doesn't seem to be a UK or European counterpart yet.

Joe Sherry said...


Not concerned. I have a disclaimer on the bottom of any review of materials I receive from publishers "Reading copy provided courtesy of...", and that's just for the sake of full disclosure.

I don't think we're the fish they are looking for.

Now, Boing Boing? Yeah, Cory is a bigger fish.

John Markley said...

I don't find the assurances that they won't be going after the little guys at all convincing, partly because the only source for those assurances is the FTC itself and partly because of the incentives involved. If you're one of the officials with the task of enforcing this, and you want to advance (or just not lose your job), you're going to need to collect some scalps. In pursuit of that, you can go after bigger players who actually cause the corruption this regulation is supposedly aimed at- who might have the monetary and legal resources to put up a struggle, and a strong incentive to do so (if blog payola is making them big money.) Or you can go after some nobody who lacks those things. Being a weak, easy target is not a source of security.

More generally, the regulation itself reeks to high heaven. It covers blogs but explicitly excludes newspapers. The rule imposes requirements on independent individual voices, but not on large, established media organizations of the sort that tend to be owned by multibillion dollar conglomerates. This is a pretty standard pattern for regulation created for the benefit of rent-seeking established interests.

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Val said...

Waste of time making regulations for this. There is way too much out there to actually enforce it. Hell, they have more than enough work left to do in providing basic protection of copyrighted material. That being said I generally think it is a good thing to mention it if you do receive review copies.

Neth said...

hmm...interesting thoughts

I guess that I do support the idea that someone should disclose any free books they get (or if they are compensated - though how much is nobody's business). This is why I've had my 'disclosure' page up from pretty much the beginning.

I also think it's a waste of time and effort for small fish to be regulated. I honestly don't think that there is anything to worry about, but at the same time I do fear that a couple of small fish will be strung up as an example (similar to what the music industry has done with some file-sharing college students).

On the whole, I think that the big fish do need some regulation, but I have to agree with John Markley that this is more than a bit misguided when it exludes the big corporate entities where the stakes are much higher and actually have potential affect on most people's blogs.

And Adam, I'm no legal scholar, but if your blog is visible in the US and you discuss products available in the US, then I don't see why you would be exempt.

Eddie C said...

Neth - the answer is more complicated that this (it always is), but Adam probably won't be subject to FTC regulation because it has not jurisdiction outside America. The blog posting all happen outside America, any promotional books are sent to an address outside america, and Adam is resident outside America. Any issues with the way promotional materials are used should be sorted out by the British competition authorities (who I don't think have rules on these sorts of things).

In short, as much as they'd like to (I kid, I kid!), US law enforcement, and US regulation, does not in general have jurisdiction outside the US

Neth said...

So, do these new regulations apply to reviews on

John Markley said...

"I honestly don't think that there is anything to worry about, but at the same time I do fear that a couple of small fish will be strung up as an example (similar to what the music industry has done with some file-sharing college students)."

That concerned me as well. One reason the FTC's claims that it will not be aggressively pursuing small fish does not reassure me is that it still leaves the door open to arbitrary enforcement, resulting in an uncertain environment where it's a crapshoot (or perhaps a matter of who's ticked off somebody in the FTC) whether you're treated as breaking the law or not.


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