Second Life Bloggers and Review Copy Disclosure

Hi. It’s been ages since I last posted. I know. And now I’m posting with no pics, and it’s a boring post about legal stuff. Promise I’ll be back for reals in January with all new stuff. In the meantime, let’s learn something! — Vaki

In 2009, the FTC released its Guidelines Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. When it did, there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth from bloggers all over the internets as people freaked out a bit over whether or not that meant they could still review items they had been given to review. Because laws, regulations, and FTC guidelines are pretty confusing and rumors tend to persist, many questions still remain several years later.

  • The first and most important element to know is that these are guidelines. They’re not laws. They’re guides that the FTC may use if it is asked to investigate deceptive conduct, but they’re not laws.
  • The second thing to know is that the FTC doesn’t go out and monitor your blogs waiting to pounce any time you slip up. Again, these guidelines are used if someone reports your blog to the FTC for unethical conduct…and if the FTC decides to investigate.
  • The third thing to know is that the FTC is not going to fine you for not putting ‘Review copies’ in your blog post. There is no fine for not complying with the endorsement guidelines.

Here’s how it works for Second Life bloggers. If a designer pays you, a blogger, or gives you an item of value in exchange for your review on your blog (review copies, if you’d normally have to pay for them, count as items of value; if you’re getting them because you’re a blogger, that counts as being in exchange for your review on the blog), you should mention it somewhere. It could be as subtle as a ‘Review copies’ tag at the end of posts that contain review copies, or asterisks by the items that were given to you as review copies (with a “* Review copies” down at the bottom).

You do not have to flag things you’ve paid for yourself. You do not have to flag anything that a designer has given away for free to everybody.

I am of two minds about items that are sent out to blogger groups. On the one hand, those are sent out to groups of people because they are bloggers. On the other, the point is to give the blog reader some awareness that there is a relationship between the blogger and the creator of the product, so the reader is aware of any potential bias. In blogger groups, there is no such relationship. However, transparency is a good thing.

In short, the debate over disclosing “review copies” in Second Life blogs is much ado over not much. Bloggers, don’t panic. Make a little mention of it for transparency’s sake and move on.

Thanks for bearing with me. See you kids in January.

Edit for disclaimer: yes, I’m a lawyer in the real lifes. No, this is not intended to be legal advice, nor is it intended to form a confidential relationship etc etc. It’s a blog post. If you’d like legal advice, mail me.

About Vaki

Seriously, Mega Shark v. Giant Octopus is a masterpiece of modern cinema. What? It has Deborah Gibson in it. And there's this one scene where...what? Oh, like there's something better than a mega shark leaping out of the ocean and biting a plane in half. Whatever.
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