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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Looking at the FTC Guidelines on Affiliate Links, Endorsing Products and Blogging

You can read the full set of FTC Guidelines here.

Let me start by saying if you are NOT a US resident or citizen, the guidelines don't apply to you. If you ARE a US resident or citizen, even if you are posting on a foreign website, they do apply to you.

Now, I am NOT a Lawyer (IANAL) You do not need to be a lawyer to make sense of the FTC Guidelines regarding affiliate links and product endorsements online. It's written in plain English with numerous examples.

Basically, what it comes down to is this - if there is a benefit for YOU, you must disclose such. If the affiliate links are in a post, a forum comment or an online article benefit you (such as the 5% you get back from OBS) you need to indicate such. Not the exact amount of the benefit, but that there IS a benefit for you. This applies to review copies too - if you are reviewing a product and you were comped, you must explicitly say so.

At The Tavern, every page has the same surrounding text, links, ads, lists. I prominently disclose exactly how much of a commission I get at OBS and OGS. These are at the top of the page, just under the header. This SHOULD cover me for disclosure of any affiliate links in my posts that announce products or are reviews, but IANAL. I could be wrong. It may be that I need more explicit disclosure. I am, however, acting in good faith upon my interpretation of the guidelines in question.

Now, if you do a review of a freely distributed product, or one you purchased for yourself, no disclosures are needed (but you would still need a disclosure for the affiliate links, if any.)

What about connections to products, publishers, authors and the like? I have started to fully (some have said TOO fully) disclose such relationships. I may add some humor to said disclosures, but that's simply how I am.

At this point, I know so many people and publishers that nearly every post mentioning a product will probably require a disclosure from me.

Do I think the FTC is going to come down on bloggers and the like in the OSR for lack of disclosure? Probably not. We are small fish in a small pool. Too much work for too little in return. Disclosure, however, keeps the hobby honest and that is a good thing.

Nothing in this post should be considered legal advice. The examples herein are how I am approaching these guidelines. Notice these are guidelines and not hard rules. As such, there may be gray areas.








10 comments:

  1. I have statement to the effect of "Please assume that any links to these sites on my blog are affiliate links as I don't mark them individually."

    ReplyDelete
  2. Also, I used a link you posted to determine the "worth" of my blog....roughly 1% of yours! Still more than I'd be willing to pay for it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think transparency in regards to affiliate links is a good thing. I do so and though it is not up to standard which is marked throughout this document, I’ll probably work to place it more in line. Despite this document I see it as a matter of ethics not law.

    However, I’m (and I too am not a lawyer) trying to imagine how this would be enforced in a legal sense. I’m trying to imagine a situation of why it would require enforcement? Especially for an RPG blog.
    Pretend for a moment that I have a blog that is huge-huge-huge! And say from that blog I pull in $10,000 in sales from affiliate links. Like I said, huge! Of that I receive $500, claim it on my taxes and roughly after taxes clear $335.

    I mean, are we talking about penalty wise, mail fraud? Just out of curiosity what is level of punishment for us Blogger law breakers? I doubt the government has the resources or interest to go after individual bloggers. That would be crazy. Out of curiosity I googled it:
    Here is a link an article: http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/ftc-really-going-sue-bloggers


    BTW: I love this blog, but the ads are really killing the load time. Maybe you should cut back on your affiliate links? (kidding…)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Tavern pulls in about 1k yearly in affiliate monies (20k sales)

      ENWorld does at least 8x the traffic The Tavern does.

      Sean's lasted Picks of the Week shows "Number of Views: 73520/1360"

      No idea what the 2 numbers represent - maybe views and outbound traffic?

      If 73K views were made of his latest Pick of the Week post i less than a week, Sean gets significant income from his affiliate links

      Delete
    2. So you’re saying my huge-huge-huge reference should have been huge-huge-huge x2? ;) Do contributors of EnWorld News attach their own affiliate links for reviews and product placement? I shall mash some buttons and investigate. Of course if they don’t, they are certainly paying for the articles. I asked about that prior.

      Delete
    3. Yes, they do! Interesting. I'd assumed the site was taking something off of this.

      BTW: TY Erik for your candor

      Delete
    4. I believe in being as open with The Tavern's finances as is possible, which is pretty damn open ;)

      Now, if the contributor at ENWorld is NOT a US citizen or resident, the FTC guidelines wouldn't apply. Morrus, for example, would follow UK rules. If the links put money in ENWorld's coffers, it would also fall under UK rules.

      Delete
  4. IANAL ? Strong contender for Acronym of The Week, this one.

    ReplyDelete
  5. In Norway we have laws that are quite similar, one of the top bloggers here got busted a couple of years back.
    Girl, 19 or 20 years old had about 1 million followers in the Scandinavian countries.
    Did not disclose that her linking to certain products was commercial(ie she got paid to do it), nor did she tax all the freebies she got.
    Nothing really nasty, more a sound slap on the wrist(and owing quite an amount of tax).
    But after this, most blogs in Norway cleaned up their acts. At least the larger ones are much more transparent now ...

    ReplyDelete
  6. In Norway we have laws that are quite similar, one of the top bloggers here got busted a couple of years back.
    Girl, 19 or 20 years old had about 1 million followers in the Scandinavian countries.
    Did not disclose that her linking to certain products was commercial(ie she got paid to do it), nor did she tax all the freebies she got.
    Nothing really nasty, more a sound slap on the wrist(and owing quite an amount of tax).
    But after this, most blogs in Norway cleaned up their acts. At least the larger ones are much more transparent now ...

    ReplyDelete