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catchman

PSA: Disclose When You're Given a Free Copy of Payware to Review

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I feel the need to point this out as another Avsim thread raised an important issue about blogger/reviewer compensation that deserves a larger audience because most consumers, marketers, and bloggers are sometimes ignorant of U.S. federal law and regulation.  I happen to be a compensated developer, but my main occupation is practicing in this area of law, so I thought it would be helpful to post this simple PSA.  

 

The U.S. FTC has interpreted the Fair Trade Act to require that bloggers must disclose when they receive compensation, including free copies, for a product review.  Violations can result in up to a $16,000 penalty per post, depending on many factors such as the offensiveness of the copy; both marketers and reviewers are subject to enforcement.  Consumers may also be able to sue individually or as part of a larger class action.

 

Here is a snippet from the linked FTC guidance:

 

 
Isn’t it common knowledge that bloggers are paid to tout products or that if you click a link on a blogger’s site to buy a product, the blogger will get a commission?

 

No.

 

 

 

I am not making any conclusion about anyone on Avsim or other flightsim sites, developers or commercial publishers. I merely want to point out something that is often misunderstood.  Please also do not consider this to be legal advice, as I do not intend this post or any response to form an attorney-client relationship.  Speak with a licensed attorney to assess if, whether and how you should disclose.  Compliance can be simple; make the appropriate disclosures and everybody benefits.

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OK - getting commission is one thing...

 

Getting a free "review copy" for the review is common practice on these forums, and should be assumed.

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After reading the FTC document, I'd say that assumptions by readers of material covered by the ruling which does not contain the mandated disclosure would be no defense.

 

Jim Harnes

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I happen to be a compensated developer, but my main occupation is practicing in this area of law

Finally a real attorney posting, rather than the armchair lawyers that pop up.

 

I can already see the irony that will unfold when the armchair lawyers try to dispute this or argue against it.

 

I can hear Gerry's (mgh) foot steps coming.

 

Btw, since you're with or the proprietor of ImagineSim, has this happened often when you've given out press copies? I wonder how many bloggers like AirDailyX forget to do this?

 

One last thing I've been meaning to ask you since you don't post here often. Have you considered having an ImagineSim forum here or on your own website where users can post for help, rather than your email system? Sorry to go off topic but was curious.

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Btw, since you're with or the proprietor of ImagineSim, has this happened often when you've given out press copies? I wonder how many bloggers like AirDailyX forget to do this?

 

One last thing I've been meaning to ask you since you don't post here often. Have you considered having an ImagineSim forum here or on your own website where users can post for help, rather than your email system? Sorry to go off topic but was curious.

 

Jim, my affiliation with Imaginesim is strictly as an afcad contractor.  I don't have any control over their distribution of press copies, so I can't speak to that.  I agree that a forum would be great, but it seems that they're providing improved tech support via facebook, for what it's worth. 

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When I do my reviews I'm given nothing,I pay out of pocket for everything.

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Surely it's only honest to state if an reviewer has been given a benefit - even it's a free copy.

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Surely it's only honest to state if an reviewer has been given a benefit - even it's a free copy.

 

No problem with that... it just was assumed in the past..

 

Developers typically are keen to have their products reviewed and provide free review

copies for that purpose.  The reviewer does not get paid.. it is a volunteer effort.

 

But Times Change  :smile:

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What about those outside of the USA ?  I would think they need to comply with local country or EU regulations.   But just as a good moral gesture, reviewers who get a free copy should disclose it to the reader or video watcher.

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I can hear Gerry's (mgh) foot steps coming.

 

Surely it's only honest to state if an reviewer has been given a benefit - even it's a free copy.

Lol, well he made it, took him a few days though. He must have been on holiday.

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No problem with that... it just was assumed in the past..

 

Developers typically are keen to have their products reviewed and provide free review

copies for that purpose.  The reviewer does not get paid.. it is a volunteer effort.

 

But Times Change  :smile:

And I can assure you no reviewer or staff member at Avsim gets paid, we are all volunteers. We even hear from developers who state other sites offer favourable reviews if the developer advertises with them, but we make it clear, our loyalty is to our readers and we aim to assist developers by pointing out what our readers enjoy or don't enjoy of the products.

 

This has lead to some developers not wanting their products reviewed by Avsim because we keep finding flaws with them...which is fine, we would like developers to see the feedback as valuable to improve their product but not everyone thinks this way.

 

We will continue, with our readers in mind.

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