Monday, October 5, 2009

FTC WILL REQUIRE DISCLOSURE ON BOOK BLOGS!

I talked about this back in August. Thanks to At Home With Books for posting the most recent information.

Starting December 1, the FTC will require disclosure from all bloggers whom they deem as being compensated for their reviews on any products. Meaning, if you review something for free and retain the product, you must disclose it or risk a mighty fine. Upward of $11,000. But you could always return it . . . O_o

That means book bloggers, people. Keeping a review copy is considered compensation and must be disclosed. Fun stuff, right?

This article goes into more detail thanks to an interview with a member of the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Don't say I didn't warn you! While they say the FTC will target the companies as opposed to the bloggers for fines (considering the sheer number of us), it still means we have to amend how we run things with our blogs. And our taxes. Remember, if review copies are considered compensation, they have a monetary value and need to be reported on taxes. OMG, fun!

Aside from the ultimate level of suck this is at, I wouldn't get too worked up for it but at the same time I wouldn't brush it off, either. It's best to keep up to speed on things like this because the last thing you want is the FTC and the IRS on your ass.

30 comments:

robin_titan said...

wow! man the government wants money from EVERYTHING!

Stacey said...

If you don't keep the books and give them away like so many bloggers do, does that need to be reported?

I can see this hurting a lot of bloggers...

bridget3420 said...

I think this is a load of crap. I wish the stickin' government would start earning their own money rather than taking all of ours. Thanks for sharing this. It is definitely something we need to be aware of.

Brooke Reviews said...

Thanks for the email. This is crazy. Do ARC's count for this as well? Since ARC's aren't bought by anyone, it's not really like compensation. hm. Good think I buy most of my books. :)

April said...

Fuck the man, trying to the bloggers down.

How would they know whether I bought the book or not?

I could easily lie on my blog and say I won the book in a contest or I bought it, or I got it from the library. How would they know? I mean it's not like they are going to go to my house to check, especially as I have most of my book mail sent to my parents' place and not my temporary abode.

Plus, with the only having to declare on positive reviews and not on negative reviews sort of shatters my credibility, as only the positive reviews will get disclosure so people will just assume I'm only giving a positive review because I was sent the product to review.

Lexie said...

soo...are they gonna start making it legal to sell ARC's or alternately, have publishers pricetag ARC's? I mean otherwise they can't say that they want monetary compensation for something that has no monetary amount legally.

not to mention this seems kind of ridiculous. Does anyone know what prompted this? I think I might post this to my paralegal class and see what folks say...

~The Book Pixie said...

Pardon my french but this is all a total bunch of bull shit.

All I can say is if the FTC and IRS wanna come after me for the few books I receive for review then let em come. Their gonna look awfully stupid when they come to my house and realize I live in the projects in a small Georgian town and it is a 17 year old girl they are trying to fine for $11,000. They'll be laughed right out of court with their tales dragging behind them the scum bags.

Or atleast this is what I'm telling myself. Keep me updated and thanks for emailing me about this.

~Briana

Callie said...

I don't really understand what we have to do. But wow I haven't even recieved an ARC yet. This is sorta ridiculous.

J. Kaye said...

I am so freaking glad I never have gotten paid for a review. Even the monies (which haven't arrived yet) from the Amazon widgets are raffled off. When books arrive to be reviewed, those are posted. I have no secrets on my blog. I practiced disclosure long before the gov't got involved.

J. Kaye said...

OMG! Totally love what April said...you go, girl!

Wrighty said...

This is ridiculous!! I'm showing this to my mom's boss who is a lawyer and an accountant. If it's OK, I might post this on my blog too. Thanks for the heads up!

Ashley said...

That is sooo messed up! I can't believe this. I just got done reading all the linked articles and interviews, and it's ridiculous!!

There is no way that I would pay an $11,000 fine for keeping an ARC that a publisher ASKED me to review. If they want me to review their work FOR FREE the least they can do is let us keep the book! Oh my gosh this is so stupid.

Donna said...

Holy shitballs, Batman! My inbox exploded!

Ok, first of all, spread the word on this because if book bloggers don't want to get spanked, they need to know about this. That's why I let loose that blast email; to make sure I got the word to as many bloggers as possible.

Second, this is the situation as I understand it - book bloggers are guilty bystanders in this FTC business. Originally this whole deal was aimed at product review blogs for things like laptops and stuff. That's why I warned against reviewing things like bookshelves in your book blogs, because of this. So now (not because of a few book bloggers reviewing bookshelves, mind), because we get "products," we are now on the radar.

What is a "product?" Any book that is sent to us from a publisher (I'm not sure from an author but it might be the case there since it's ultimately used as a promotional tool) or publicist for review. That includes ARCs since they ultimately have monetary value. What you need to do is whenever you review an ARC, provide full disclosure as to where you got it from. From my understanding, that's it. None of us really get enough books to get the IRS involved.

Why would the IRS get involved? Because free books are considered compensation for our services, AKA pay. Those bitches want their money, basically, so when you do your taxes, if you get enough books, you'd have to claim them as a stipend from the publishers you review for. Sounds more and more like a job, doesn't it? While we think of it as purely volunteer and we review books because we want to spread our love of reading, the government isn't so rosy about it.

My Spidey senses were tingling back in August about this. I wish they were wrong. Now book bloggers have RULES! Ick. The thing is, a lot of bloggers already do this, indicate that what they're reviewing is an ARC. Your best bet would be to just get int he habit of disclosing fully where you got it from, just to be safe.

Yes, those smarmy bastards have made their way onto our blogs. So much for Amazon associates linkage. I don't know what would happen in a contest situation, though.

At the end of the day, though, they can't prove what we have has been given to us by the publishers unless we actually say it. Considering all of that exchange stuff goes on via private email and snail mail, the only way they can actually prove anything is if they get lists from publishers on who they sent ARCs to or we say it outright.

So it all depends on what you want to do. Disclose to be safe or take your chances and fly under the radar. J. Kaye's Book Blog is probably one of the best examples of a blogger that already practices full disclosure. Take a look at her to see the information you'd need to post. Maybe she's be willing to do her own post about this fun topic??? :)

J. Kaye said...

Oh Donna, you crack me up. And yes, and we are on board with the IRS. Steve keeps us clean with the man. And it's a total freakin' pain. If you are audited and for a time there, I had a business. Not blogger related, but that was about the time the IRS was going after small businesses. :(

I'll get with Steve and see what we can come up with. Thanks for posting this. I know who they are targeting, but we could get in the middle of this crap. I know a couple of people who are trying to make money at blogging and this really does have a lot to do with them.

Donna, I wonder if this will scare some new book bloggers off?

Donna said...

J. Kaye, I totally agree. Book bloggers were sucked into this based on the actions of unrelated bloggers. They're books, dammit! But it's good that your situation is so squared away. Better to be safe and all of that.

But I honestly have no idea if this will deter new book bloggers. If they don't know about it then they can't be committing a crime (how I love them court cases!). I think if it gets to a point where the FTC gets really intense and we have to do quarterly reporting or stupid shit like that, then yeah, there go all the teen bloggers, all the casual bloggers. The only people that'll be left are the ones that are diehard enough to stick through that crap. Or know the loopholes to get around it.

Thankfully I buy most of my books and I've won ARCs. Would I have to disclose the ARCs that I won from another book blogger? What about the ones that I pick up from BEA? If they're passing them out like fliers, does it negate their FTC-ness potential?

I'd love to see what you have to say on this, J. Post, post, post, post!

Zia said...

"So much for Amazon associates linkage" - Could you explain what this is? I mean when I write up reviews, I cross post them on Library Thing, Amazon, Goodreads. Does that have anything to do with the associate thing?

...MY NAME IS ELENI AND I AM A BOOKAHOLIC... said...

Holy shit! This is ridiculous! I can't believe their going after book bloggers, really? Because they don't have bigger fish to fry? If publishers or authors want to send us their books, why the heck are we getting blamed for it!? It's not like we're stealing...and where are we supposed to give the ARC's too? Send them to others so that way we need to spend crazy money on shipping? Man, I'm annoyed now lol. Thanks for posting this, I guess I need to give more info on where I receive my books from.

Thanks!!

Falling Off The Shelf said...

I'm not really worried about this. I'm one of those bloggers that already discloses where I received a book. I let it be known on mailbox monday where I receive my weekly book stack from. I also give a special thanks in all of my reviews as to where I received the book from as well.

Does anyone know if this will prevent us from swapping a book like on PBS or BM? I think if we disclosed it already, than we're not breaking the law. Then if another blogger reads the same book..do they have to disclose that they received it from me? I already thank other bloggers, lol...so...once again, not really worried!

But come on, filing them off on taxes? How would we do that anyway? Would we have to go online and tap down all the prices from amazon..or just give them a list of all the books we received. Eh..I think this is the most distressing part for me.

Thanks for the post. I'm still fairly new to the blogging world, but just so you guys know..this will not make me back down! I will remain loyal to the blogging community!

Book Sp(l)ot said...

thanks for posting all of this (and the email)...

So far I've already been making note in my review thanking whomever sent me a book for review in my reviews (when it's not one I buy or get from the library). It was just because I wa thankful but I think now I'll be extra careful...and distinguish between ARCs and final copy books whether or not it matters. (Though now that I think about it, I have no idea if I mention contest win books....) I don't too many books, though, so I tihnk it's been easier to manage :P

I'll check out some more links and such tomorrow.

Lenore said...

I'm not worried. I already disclose where I get my books and I donate any review copies to various recipients. I have kept a few, but that's because they are signed by the author. If it is a book I really want to keep, I buy it anyway.

Donna said...

For Amazon, some people,when they review, post a link directly to the book using their Amazon Associates accounts so they get a portion of the sales. The FTC doesn't like that. I'm a little fuzzy on that part of the whole issue but if you're just cross-posting a review, then you don't have any thing to worry about. It's attempting to sell the product on your site that has the FTC's panties all knotted.

Falling Off The Shelf said...

I do that Donna. It doesn't amount to anything though, lol. I have not made ONE sale since June. I'm not worried though. It's easy for people to add it to their Amazon wishlist just by clicking the book too. If they want to get on me about my linkage..they can just look at my sales too..then kiss my butt.

Zia said...

Ah I see how it works now. Thank you for answering my question Donna.

The Book Muncher said...

I think this is a little odd, but I wouldn't necessarily go attacking the govt for this. From my understanding, this law was not created to raise govt revenue. However, it is poorly written and aside from affecting people who get paid to write positive reviews, it's also affecting us book bloggers, most of us which write according to our opinions of the books we read, not according to where we got our books.

Perhaps a bunch of us could contact these people and let them know our situation? I don't think this legislation was meant to punish us, we've done nothing wrong.

Donna said...

Like I've said, we're been innocently sucked into something that really wasn't meant for reviewers like us but we're guilty by association.

Maybe if we get enough "signature" on some kind of letter, they'll listen to us or at least hear us out.

Falling Off The Shelf said...

Maybe if we're lucky they will listen. If someone wants to start a petition or something (I have no idea how to even do this, lol), I'll sign it!

Meggin said...

Hey Donna! Thanks for telling us.

Um, I JUST turned 13. I don't do taxes. Do I have to pay? This is confusing me :(

Donna said...

Don't worry about the taxes if you only get a few ARCs a week or so. It shouldn't be a problem. The people that have to worry about that are those that get massive amounts of ARCs or make money off of Amazon Associates from linking those ARCs.

Rabid Fox said...

Yikes. I think I already disclose this kind of thing, but I'll keep it in mind even as a Canuck.

perla said...

Wow, I just got back from vacation and only just read your post! As if I didn't already loose money on my blog! I don't get many ARC's, and I spend A LOT of money on buying books as giveaways and then shipping costs..... This is already giving me a headache!!!

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