Today the Federal Trade Commission revised their “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials” (click here to download), urging bloggers who review products, from a book to a video game system, to disclose if they received the product for free when giving an endorsement. According to the¬†Washington Post, breaking these new guidelines could generate up to $11,000 in fines. – Galleycat

Well, that certainly puts the tussle that went down earlier this year in a new light.  About $11,000 of new light.

Earlier this year Heidi MacDonald went on a bit of a tangent, ripping on comics bloggers who included whether or not a book was provided gratis by a publisher in their reviews. Like adding the phrase “This review was based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.” to the end of the review. The comments section of that post heated up too, with respected newspapermen-and-women like Tom Spurgeon and Brigid Alverson coming down on opposite sides of the debate (Spurge openly-mocked the concept of noting when a book was provided by a publisher, Brigid wanted to cover all of her ethical bases). Well Guess What? Looks like the F T C came down like a sack of hammers in favour of fessing-up to your filthy filthy swag.

So, for example, if I were to review Taiyo Matsumoto’s GO GO MONSTER which I got in the mail today, or Inio Asano’s WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD which I got in the mail today, I’d have to…

Wait, wait, let me get a picture:

DSCI0624

DSCI0626

DSCI0627

OMG… so beautifulllll….

Anyway, if I were to write a review about either of these fine books, I’d have to mention that these fine books were provided courtesy of the publisher, Viz LLC, or risk massive fines from the FTC! Well, if I positively reviewed… or ‘endorsed’ the books. I guess I could rip on them and not have to disclose that I got them for free.

Actually, I’m Canadian aren’t I? Fuck the FTC! They got nothing to do with me. I guess now this whole post is just me bragging that I got books early, from the pubs. Jesus, what a horrible lack of class, or tact, on my part. How utterly unprofessional. I don’t know why you even come here.

Meanwhile, as I imagined she might, Johanna Draper Carlson has all kinds of smart things to say on this very subject. Go read what she has to say.

- Christopher


10 Comments on “I’ve got 11,000 reasons for you to come clean about your review copies.”

You can track this conversation through its atom feed.

  1. Charles Raymond says:

    Careful, we Americans havent invaded any countries as of late. We might come and invade Canada so the FTC can get you if you dont disclose you got comp copies for your reviews.;)

  2. range says:

    I agree with you there. However, I think it’s aimed at some of those mommy-bloggers who keep pimping products to their readers without disclosing that they are paid to do this or have received freebies, like a washing machine etc.

  3. Sean T. Collins says:

    Review copies are not “in-kind payment,” so the sack of hammers remains undropped.

  4. Journalista – the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Oct. 6, 2009: Obama 1, MacDonald 0 says:

    [...] of the latter: Christopher Butcher notes that Heidi MacDonald went after Carlson earlier this year for daring to note when her review [...]

  5. THE BEAT » Blog Archive » Blogosphere vs the FTC says:

    [...] Chris Butcher [...]

  6. Chris says:

    Sean- Aren’t they? Has that been explicitly stated anywhere?

  7. sir jorge says:

    that’s exactly why i never accept free crap, then again, I burn bridges all the time by setting the free things on fire verbally

  8. More on Review Copy Disclosures » Comics Worth Reading says:

    [...] looking for an example of why some people find review copy revelations obnoxious, check out Chris Butcher’s post. And it worked — I’m jealous he’s got a copy of What a Wonderful World and I [...]

  9. Torsten Adair says:

    I only come here to read the Evan Dorkin comics. }]

    Hmmm… not concerned about the FTC? How did those review copies arrive at your store, by carrier pigeon? If the CCBS can prevent certain American comics from crossing the border into Canada, what makes you think Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Service wouldn’t prevent review copies from being sent? (Yeah, it’s an extreme possibility, but postal censorship is not unheard of.)

    Ethics and law are not the same thing. One tells us what we ought to do, the other what we must do. As for you bragging about the books, well, that fulfills the publishers reason for sending them to you (partly so you’ll order and sell copies in your store, partly because you’ll discuss it here). You’ve waltzed right into their trap!

    Hey… what if I host a blog where people can recommend stuff in the comments fields? People post their reviews with postal addresses, publishers send those people stuff, and all I have to do is post a simple “Read any good Marvel Comics lately?” column! It’s a message board with links to online vendors! I keep the cash, members do the heavy lifting, and the FTC rules don’t apply! ka-CHING!

  10. Abhay says:

    They’re doing a good job with Asano. I thought they did a nice job with the packaging on Solanin anyways, and What a Wonderful World looks terrific in that package.

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