Tobold's Blog
Saturday, February 13, 2010

A reader sent me this handy link that the folks from offer for bloggers to be able to comply with FTC guidelines on endorsement from bloggers. There are several different "labels" available to mark exactly what your material connection to the product discussed it, ranging from the above "No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions", to to disclose an "Affiliate marketing link".

Unfortunately the labels don't come as pictures (yet), so you can't easily make a graphic label link. But it can't hurt to put a text link like this to the appropriate disclosure label into a review on a blog.

[EDIT: Some comply labels as funny pictures can be found here.]
>But it can't hurt to put a text link...

...or can it?
Oh, i like those. If only certain other bloggers who shall not be named carried a big warning sign like this one.
You live in the EU, Tobold. Are you seriously suggesting EU residents need to be compliant with U.S. Law now?

If so, is that ALL U.S. Federal law? If it's just THIS law, why?

Who do you suggest is going to enforce it? Through what courts? Are you expecting to be extradited if you don't comply?

Are reviewers or journalists in media other than blogs covered by this legislation? If not, why not?

If you think you need tocomply with legislation in the U.S., what about legislation in other jurisdictions? Russia? China? Australia? If not, then why this one?
Bhagpuss, do you suggest that if I went to the USA and committed a crime there, I wouldn't be arrested, because EU citizens don't need to comply with US laws? Of course I do!

Where you live is irrelevant for the law in such cases. What is relevant is where your "customers" live. A blogger with readers in the USA will have to comply with US blogging laws.

Look for example at the Ehrenfeld case, where a US citizen and author was sued for libel in a British court, in spite of her book not even being sold directly in Britain, and just 20 copies having been sold there via the internet.
There is a huge difference between libel which is internationally enforceable where appropriate jurisdiction agreements exist and voluntarily submitting to foreign law when you don't have to.

If China introduced a law requiring you to report anyone criticising their government to the Chinese secret police would you comply?
If China introduced a law requiring you to report anyone criticising their government to the Chinese secret police would you comply?

Didn't Google do just that?

I'm not saying that the FTC could fine me, but I'm pretty sure they could block my blog in the US if they really wanted.
As I'm sure you know, due to certain quirks of the libel laws in Britain it's the court of choice for international libel lawyers at the moment. It's precisely because British courts take a particular interpretation that litigants seeking redress take action here rather than in their home countries.

My point isn't what might happen to you were you an American citizen resident in the U.S.A, nor even a foreign national domiciled there. I'm wondering what leads you to think that this particular piece of U.S. legislation is enforceable in the country in which you live.

Every country in the world has laws but most are not enforceable outside the borders of those countries, and those which are become enforceable only by reciprocal agreement with the legislative bodies in other countries. I'm sure we can all think of examples of things which are legal even in one country in the E.U. and illegal in another, yet E.U. citizens aren't routinely extradited for them, only for crimes that both countries have agreed merit extradition.

In other words, should the relevant U.S. authority decide to impose a penalty on a blogger in the E.U. for a breach of this act, who do you suppose would enforce that penalty?

Of course, if your caution relates to problems that you might encounter if you tried to visit America, then its understandable and may even be advisable. Since I am no more likely to visit the U.S. than I am the moon, I don't think I'll be that concerned about keping them informed which publishers' reps gave me free proof copies of which novels when I happen to mention on a website whether I enjoyed them or not.
While I think it's a very good idea to disclose material connections when you write about about games, I think you've taken this whole thing to a rather pedantic level, Tobold. You are not governed by FTC rules and regs, and where your readers are located is entirely irrelevant. If your hosting service was based in the US you *might* run into issues, but that's pretty unlikely.

Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but I get the distinct impression that your fixation on this US regulation is based mostly on rubbing it in Syncaine's face. If there's even a hint of accuracy in that impression, I think it's best to just move on and leave this topic for bloggers in the USA to worry about.
I think that fixation on Syncaine is *much* stronger in my readers than in myself. My disclosure policy is a lot older than that.

Anyway, my point never was that I have to comply to US rules or go to prison. My point is that I had decided on a disclosure policy, and then the government came and made my existing policy the rules. Which encourages me in thinking that my policy is right, even if at the time I announced it many people disagreed.
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