FTC | Word of Mouth and Affiliates

I was honestly so caught up in other things over the last 36 hours, I totally missed this and it is highly relevant to my Disclosure Policy Plugin.

I am not a lawyer, thus any interpretation of the situation I am going to leave in the hands of lawyers who I have a great deal of respect for, and who themselves are involved in the internet marketing field.

First of all the “opinion” from the FTC (PDF LINK)

For some reason I read Darren’s post today before Brian’s (who is a lawyer) – there is some interesting discussion in both threads.

I then read Dr. Tony Hung’s opinion (he is a Dr of medicine) but the opinions are very valid.

Mike Young is a lawyer, specializing in internet law and wrote about this topic yesterday on the Copywriters Blog, his internet law blog, and there is further discussion on the copywriters board.

Other mentions I haven’t fully digested yet

FTC May Regulate Pay Per Post @ Techcrunch – The Techcrunch post targets Pay Per Post, which in my opinion is actually totally missing out on the much target picture. It also affects many of the companies Techcrunch cover who use affiliate programs for monetization.
FTC tells PayPerPost to knock it off at Matthew Ingram – Matthew does mention affiliate marketing, thus why target PPP with this. This affects Google more than PPP.

This affects Amazon, Google, Ebay, Clickbank, Commission Junction, Linkshare and a host of other billion dollar companies that allow affiliates to link directly through to a particular product or service.

For WordPress users, the perfect solution is my Disclosure Policy Plugin.

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  1. says

    Wish I had read this post about an hour ago. I was trying to put this all together for a blog post. I will now just link to this page. Thank you!

    PayPerPost offered the opportunity for bloggers to write and post a disclosure policy, place an I DISLOSE banner, and be paid for it back in early November. I have adopted the WOMMA blog ethics. They are also posted on my blog.

    Thanks for keeping a neutral stance. I am pretty angry about the way everyone is blaming PayPerPost because Edelman and Zipatoni are writing flogs for corporate clients.

    Now people want to bring in the Federal Trade Commission. Just what we need is more government. LOL

    Now, if you can tell me what Google said. I think they just restated their SPLOG policy.

  2. says

    I’m suddenly a little more interested in this topic, though very begrudgingly so.

    But what constitutes disclosure in a legal sense? Is the link-text (aff) thing good enough? Do I have to have six paragraphs of legal jargon adjacent to every affiliated/monetized link?

    And too, compensation. Compensation does not strictly mean money. Will we see silly things like
    http://linktoacoolsitethatlinksback.com (DISCLOSURE: This link earns me a link back that results in lots of traffic). Never overestimate the US Federal Governments ability to be stupid.

    And what is prominently placed. Can I have a disclosure page? Or must the discloser reside on every page? Or must it be adjacent to the link itself?

    There is much shaking out to be seen yet before there is any thing real here. I’ll be downloading the plugin, Andy and playing with it. Though I’m still of a mind to have a disclosure page with a nofollow link in the footer of the blog and the feed.

  3. says

    Hi Dane

    It is going to come down to whatever pressure is placed on the affiliate networks. It is quite possible the more regulated affiliate networks will adopt something faster than those promoting things that are safe for work.

    The plugin only places stuff at the bottom of posts.

    “Disclosure blindness” will effectively make this a totally non-issue for most readers after a very short while.

  4. says

    I came late to this discussion, however, after reading through the various posts online and the FTC opinion, I believe Brian (Copyblogger) has a good point: this will most likely affect the more shady companies than anyone else.

    If you’re not making false claims simply to have someone click on your link and make a purchase, the likelihood of the FTC coming after you is probably slim.

    It’s ludicrous to treat everyone on the web like a child. People should be able to use their better judgement when someone recommends something. The FTC should only step in when someone is blatantly making false claims or promising the moon, sun, and the fountain of youth (bottled) which is already illegal.

    On the positive side, it appears PPP isn’t taking any chances with this. Some affiliate networks may take a similar stance, though I doubt it — they may start cracking down on individual affiliates and enforcing what they are allowed to say/promise in their product endorsements.

    My 3.72 cents :),
    ~ Teli

    P.S. This is merely speculation. IANAL.

  5. says

    I fixed the typo and another I spotted :)

    I have actually been offline for 5 days. I suppose I need to write an “I am sick” plugin for times when you are off sick and didn’t obviously have anything prepared in advance.
    It doesn’t help that from tomorrow I will be offline again for a few days (lots of Christmas guests)

    I still have to respond to being “tagged”.

    I have a few more links but will save those for a fresh post.

  6. says

    Aw, I hope you’re feeling better and have a wonderful Christmas.

    ~ Teli

    P.S. Thanks for being my copy editor and can’t wait to see your 5 things; please don’t hold it against me. :)


  1. […] The word (Copyblogger) in Blogland (Andy Beard) and elsewhere (Washington Post) is that Pay-Per-Post bloggers and other online affiliate marketers may have to disclose they are being paid for their endorsements. WOMMA, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, read the staff opinion letter as applying to stealth or ninja marketing, which they also condemn, not the friendly, non-deceptive buzz or word of mouth marketing that is fair play. Another hairball for the guardians of the consumer to untangle.  Professor Walter Carl, blogging from the WOMMA Summit in Washington D.C. last week, has an excellent summary of the FTC position here. […]

  2. […] Now it was only a month or so ago that there was a huge amount of blogger attention regarding a letter issued by the FTC in regards word of mouth advertising. Many bloggers directed their attention to various paid blog post monetization models and said that this legislation was directed at them. Many lawyers however also pointed out that this affected various forms of affiliate marketing. […]