You might not be fully and 100% aware of everyone you are linking to. You could even be linking to a bad-neighborhood site without realizing it. There are a few ways this can happen.
A lot has been said recently in the blogosphere about the new rules recently created by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) which effect affiliate marketers and bloggers – in some cases, quite extensively, and in other cases, not so much.
If you sell products through your blog or website, whether as an affiliate or whether these are your own products, it’s important to understand these rules so that you can be in compliance with them – or as much in compliance as is humanly possible.
I say “as humanly possible,” because some of the new regulations are written in such vague terms, that their interpretation is open to far more opinion than befits any professional law-making body.
I am not a lawyer and nothing I say constitutes legal advice (by the way, you will see this statement paraphrased in many blog posts on this subject 🙂 ) I am giving my opinions and views, and strongly advise you to do your own further research and study all applicable rules for yourself.
The new rules seem to be mainly concerned with the following elements of your websites and your product promotions:
- Proper disclosure of financial benefits you receive by recommending products or services
- Compliance with new rules regarding testimonials, and disclaimers on promotions of product or services.
Factually, if you are a relatively honest person, you are far less likely to have any trouble with this issue. But you should still understand it – honest people have made mistakes too, sometimes big ones.
And the bottom line is, if you aren’t in compliance with the law, you risk being sued or worse. But don’t get overly terrified. If you are a new marketer without a lot of traffic, if your customers are generally happy with you, and if you are generally honest in your promotions, your chances of getting into trouble are already drastically reduced. That still doesn’t mean you can count on it that nothing could ever go wrong.
The purpose of this post is not so much to go into the rightnesses or wrongnesses of what the FTC is doing, but to point you in the direction of some information and tools that can help you protect yourself and be prepared.
Some excellent posts have been published on the subject and I highly recommend you read them. I won’t restate what’s already been stated so eloquently by others.
Furthermore, as painful as it may seem, it’s always best to read the original rules as published by the FTC, so that you can interpret them for yourself as well. You can download the FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials at http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/original/091005endorsementguidesfnnotice.pdf (the stated effective date is December 1, 2009).
The following are some excellent posts I can recommend on this subject:
- New FTC Thing is a Bigger Deal Than You Might Think (very important read)
- What it’s Like to be Sued by the FTC (also very important!)
- FTC’s New Rules for Bloggers – a Quick Guide (very helpful!)
- The Sky is Not Falling – But this is Definitely a Game Changer
- Testimonials, Disclaimers, Disclosure, and the Federal Trade Commission
- Is this the End of Affiliate Marketing? (this post is a bit of a “umm, excuse me, do you really know what you’re doing?)
- New FTC Rules on Bloggers Blogging and Internet Marketers Marketing Testimonials and Endorsements Explained
Where to Get Disclosure Policies, Disclaimer Policies, and Other Legal Documents
You can create a simple disclosure policy for free at the the Disclosure Policy website. (This is not necessarily all you will need in order to be in compliance with FTC regulations but it’s definitely a good start):
And finally, a product I personally use for all of my websites is called Auto Web Law Pro. This service (created by an experienced attorney who later became an Internet Marketer, as far as I remember) will provide you with customizable documents which you can use to protect yourself and to comply with FTC guidelines:
- Disclaimers, including Earnings Disclaimers
- Copyright Documents
- Privacy policies
- Freelance contracts
- Joint Venture and Collaboration Agreements
- Country Specific Documents
- Miscellaneous Documents for Blogs, Emails, eBooks, Product Promotion, Articles, and Videos.
- Newsletter Disclaimers
- Non-Disclosure Forms
- Purchase Agreements and Disclaimers
- Software Development Agreements
- Trademark Documents
- Affiliate Agreements
- Software and Information License Agreements
In short, this service was designed to provide any legal document an Internet Marketer needs. It’s not a substitute for a lawyer but other than that it’s the most comprehensive solution I’ve found. The service provides you with customizable forms – just enter in the data it asks for, and it will create a full legal document for you. I use this on all of my websites.
The documents are also updated regularly – according to the creators, they constantly stay in touch with FTC rules and guidelines in order to make sure the documents they provide you with are up to date, and you have lifetime access to each update. (From my side, all I can see is that I do see new and modified documents when I log onto the service after some time has passed).
If you would like to learn more, I recommend you visit:
And – oh – disclaimer: If you purchase the product through my link, I will get an affiliate commission 🙂 ! (You probably already know that, but I’m just saying …)