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Monday, June 22, 2009

This is one of two posts today involving (U.S.) federal law with fiction-writing sidebars. In this article, the (U.S.) Federal Trade Commission is now paying attention to bloggers, particularly the ones who are paid or otherwise compensated for publishing product or service reviews on their blogs. At issue is the assumption by consumers that opinions on blogs are independent and therefore trustworthy. This is far from the truth for many bloggers. I recently read a "search engine optimization" (SEO) book that covered websites and blogs. There are quite a few bloggers or blog networks that write articles for hire and link those articles back to the promoted product or service. For some, this lowers the credibility of the review.

This Yahoo News article on bloggers suggests that the FTC's recent interest in bloggers suggests some future liability for this practice:

The practice has grown to the degree that the Federal Trade Commission is paying attention. New guidelines, expected to be approved late this summer with possible modifications, would clarify that the agency can go after bloggers — as well as the companies that compensate them — for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest.

The connection with writers? Most can't help themselves; they gotta blog or die. Some bloggers are thinking about monetizing their blogs with ads, reviews and such. According to the article, there is some worry that the coincidence of a banner ad from an ad service that happens to appear while a related review has been posted constitutes risk.

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Stephen King's Text Message Horror Story

This is one of two posts today involving (U.S.) federal law with fiction-writing sidebars. In this story, Simon & Schuster sent text messages promoting a Stephen King book (Cell). In 2006, a woman who'd signed up for a ring-tone service with promotions for the service received a Stephen King book promotion. She alleged this violated consumer protection laws and sought a class-action suit.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that sending SMS messages potentially violates the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits companies from using automatic telephone dialing systems to make calls to cell phones unless the owners have consented.

This 2009 ruling reverses a previous one, equating text messages with voice calls. It is not clear from the story what the connection is between the Simon & Schuster text messages and the ring-tone service. It would seem that if the ring-tone service were serving unrelated ads to their customers, it would be the alleged culprit [unsolicited layman's view]. Here is the rest of this Media Post News article.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Blog Commenters Rights

For our international readers, this is regarding U.S. law...the state of Illinois, to be exact. Your mileage may vary.

Since many writers love to blog, here is an interesting SlashDot article about a judge's ruling regarding the rights of commenters on blogs. In summary, a law enforcement agency had requested that a newspaper reveal the identities of some commenters to a blog who claimed to know information regarding a homicide case. The newspaper refused, citing Illinois' news source protection laws. The judge ruled that commenters to blogs had no such protection as they were not sources. The article gives a link to the judge's ruling (PDF), warning that the judge repeatedly used "blogger" and "blogger commenter" interchangeably and incorrectly, though he apparently knew the difference. There was also a separate legal issue touched on in the article regarding associating IP addresses with the people who used them.

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