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The more I read this interview of an FTC staffer by book blogger Edward Champion, the more the stupidity burns.

By way of background:

This morning, the Federal Trade Commission announced that its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials would be revised in relation to bloggers. The new guidelines (PDF) specified that bloggers making any representation of a product must disclose the material connections they (the presumed endorsers) share with the advertisers. What this means is that, under the new guidelines, a blogger’s positive review of a product may qualify as an "endorsement" and that keeping a product after a review may qualify as "compensation."

These guidelines, which will be effective as of December 1, 2009, require all bloggers to disclose any tangible connections. But as someone who reviews books for both print and online, I was struck by the inherent double standard.

The double standard is, of course, the fact that bloggers (and other citizen journalists) are held to a different standard than the traditional media. Ed decided to ask that FTC staffer to explain this double standard.

I contacted Richard Cleland of the Bureau of Consumer Protection [...]

Cleland informed me that the FTC’s main criteria is the degree of relationship between the advertiser and the blogger.

"The primary situation is where there’s a link to the sponsoring seller and the blogger," said Cleland. And if a blogger repeatedly reviewed similar products (say, books or smartphones), then the FTC would raise an eyebrow if the blogger either held onto the product or there was any link to an advertisement.

What was the best way to dispense with products (including books)?

"You can return it," said Cleland. "You review it and return it. I’m not sure that type of situation would be compensation."

You can return it. Most book reviewers (political bloggers included) get dozens, if not hundreds of books, per year. The logistics and expense of such a thing makes it impractical. Strict adherence to this edict would essentially kill non tradmed book reviewing. And why?

If, however, you held onto the unit, then Cleland insisted that it could serve as "compensation." You could after all sell the product on the streets.

So stupid. You "could" sell it. If you buy a gun, you "could" shoot someone with it. If you purchase a knife, you "could" stab someone. If you open up a stock trading account, you "could" engage in illegal insider trading. If you buy shoes, you "could" use them to run away from a crime scene. If you get an accounting degree, you "could" use that knowledge to launder drug money. If you take a job at the FTC, you "could" become a blithering idiot.

Of course, nothing is stopping a staffer at a newspaper or magazine from potentially selling a book he or she reviewed, right?

But what’s the difference between an individual employed at a newspaper assigned to cover a beat and an individual blogger covering a beat of her own volition?

"We are distinguishing between who receives the compensation and who does the review," said Cleland. "In the case where the newspaper receives the book and it allows the reviewer to review it, it’s still the property of the newspaper. Most of the newspapers have very strict rules about that and on what happens to those products."

Bullshit. The way most publications operate is that they hand the book to the reviewer, and that's the end of it. I'm not sure where this fantasy "strict rules" about what happens to the product comes from, but newspapers don't have a library of review copies, nor does it have any interest in it.

And even if they do have "strict guidelines", is the FTC monitoring the situation to ensure that they are being followed? Because you know what? People at those newspapers or magazines "could" sell those books for compensation. In fact, book stores like New York City's The Strand make brisk business selling used books in near-perfect condition -- many of them review copies (many unread) dropped off by old media reviewers.

Ed pushed on this ridiculous double standard, and Cleland dished even more bullshit.

Cleland insisted that when a publisher sends a book to a blogger, there is the expectation of a good review. I informed him that this was not always the case and observed that some bloggers often receive 20 to 50 books a week. In such cases, the publisher hopes for a review, good or bad. Cleland didn’t see it that way.

Of course Cleland didn't see it that way. Cleland is a moron. Book publishers are desperate for attention, any attention. I didn't receive my copy of "Liberal Fascism" with the expectation that Daily Kos would write a positive review. In the publicity game, attention is attention. Whether good or bad, a skilled PR effort will turn that exposure to gold.

"If a blogger received enough books," said Cleland, "he could open up a used bookstore."

And if cows had wings, they would fly. Here's an idea -- when bloggers start opening up used book stores selling their review copies, maybe then the FTC can start thinking about imposing double standards.

Cleland said that a disclosure was necessary when it came to an individual blogger, particularly one who is laboring for free. A paid reviewer was in the clear because money was transferred from an institution to the reviewer, and the reviewer was obligated to dispense with the product. I wondered if Cleland was aware of how many paid reviewers held onto their swag.

I think we've already established that Cleland is a fucking moron, so no, of course he's not aware that 1) paid reviewers hold on to their swag, and 2) how many traditional media reviewers DON'T GET PAID to write those reviews. Sure, the folks at the NY Times and New York Review of Books get compensated for their reviews, but in many smaller newspapers and magazines, the reviews are written for free for the same reason bloggers do it -- because they have a passion for books and love to write about them. And yes, they get to keep those review copies. The newspapers don't demand their return.

That Cleland doesn't know simple basic facts known by most people who have worked in newsrooms speaks poorly to the reasoning that went into making these new rules.

"I expect that when I read my local newspaper, I may expect that the reviewer got paid," said Cleland. "His job is to be paid to do reviews. Your economic model is the advertising on the side."

And most people reading reviews expect that companies send out review copies. If I read a video game review site, I assume that video game companies send out review copies (and anyone who reads those sites know, not all games get good reviews). If I read a gadget site, I expect that gadget manufacturers sent review copies to those sites for review. If I read a car site, I assume that car companies loaned out cars (along with insurance) to the reviewers. And yes, if I read a book site, or political site discussing political books, I assume those sites received review copies.

Here's what I don't expect -- that every writer at a newspaper or magazine gets paid to write. In fact, the smaller the publication, the less I expect that. And my expectation is based on reality, not preconceived bullshit about economic models.

"If there’s an expectation that you’re going to write a positive review," said Cleland, "then there should be a disclosure."

Back to this. Here's the reality -- companies that send out review copies of their products HOPE they get good reviews. They don't expect it.

In any case, as a matter of site policy, Daily Kos rejects any double standards between new and old media. We will adhere to standards required of traditional media outlets, and reject the imposition of a double standard that is based on beliefs and suppositions not supported by reality. If a disclosure rule is good enough for one media outlet, it's good for the rest of them as well.

If the FTC has a problem with that, their lawyers know where to find me.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 05:30 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  so what you are saying (10+ / 0-)

    that Hannity's underwear deal has to be disclosed every time he interviews a republican.

    Republicans===the party of the 1% rich people in America. Or in other words..The Party of NO!

    by jalapeno on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 05:32:56 PM PDT

  •  A good, old-fashioned rant... (15+ / 0-)

    about good government, technology, and not healthcare. Good job.

    How the heck would the FTC's rule pass first amendment muster? It's not against the law to be a crooked reviewer.

    •  Here are some of the problems: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      aolbites

      Under 26 U.S.C. § 61, the Internal Revenue Code defines gross income as "all income from whatever source derived."  The IRS takes an expansive definition of income to mean all things of value.  When a blogger receives a book to be reviewed, and keeps the book, then that blogger has received income equal to the fair market value of the book.  In other words you have received compensation (that you are probably not including on your tax returns, and thereby committed a minor form of tax fraud), and that compensation is tied to your review so you have been compensated for your review.

      In the case of the NY Times Book Review they too receiving compensation for their reviews, but the staffer is absolutely correct that the entity technically receiving that compensation is the corporation who then provides the book to the employee for a review.  If the employee then keeps it, that is akin to keeping a pen from the office and I believe that is specifically exempted from "income" by the Internal Revenue Code as an incidental.  The important thing is that the book, as a form of income, is accounted for somewhere -- and the NY Times ought to account for it in their corporate taxes.

      Now the FTC is not concerned with enforcing the tax code, but they are very concerned with consumer protection.  The FTC is the regulatory body that forces infomercials to display a disclaimer stating that the people in the infomercials are paid actors.  The reason is because it may cause consumer confusion.  

      A blogger/corporate disparity exists, from the point of consumer protection, because a consumer knows that the writers in the NY Times are compensated as employees of the NY Times.  Further, under the tax code the NY Times writer is merely taking a pen from the office even if they keep the book.  All this creates a separation between the publisher and the writer.  For the blogger, that separation disappears.  First, most bloggers are not compensated and the general public views their work as being conducted in one's spare time.  Second, the blogger is receiving something of value directly from the publisher without a wall of any kind separating the two.  For those in the newspaper or blogging industry these distinctions may seem ridiculous.  However, for the consumer, this distinction remains a valid concern for the FTC.  

      Let us switch industries for a moment and consider video games.  I like action games and I am considering buying the new Batman game, but I have been burned by shitty games in the past so I go online to read some reviews.  Sure I go to IGN, but I want to know what real people think.  Fortunately, I know this great blog where a guy talks about the games he has.  I probably assume that he bought the game, and if he likes it enough to spend his own money on the game then I think I will too.  Little do I know that he received the game for free from the publisher.  If I had known that then I might value his endorsement differently.  The same holds true with all blogger product reviews: I expect that these are merely ordinary consumers, like me, who are reviewing a product that they bought and used -- I do not expect to get a professional review in blog format.

      Many people here may take exception to this, but the FTC's rules are a very good step in protecting consumers, and it follows with other steps the federal government has been taking to crackdown on non-traditional advertising that is designed to trick ordinary consumers into believing an endorsement comes from another ordinary consumer (see for example the IRS investigating celebrity gift bags as unreported income, or that the FTC requires a celebrity ad to state that the person was compensated for their endorsement if the compensation is not expected).  And at the end of the day how onerous is it for a legitimate blogger to post the disclaimer "The product reviewed in this column was provided free of charge by the manufacturer/publisher"?  

      As to the free speech concern this is commercial speech and that does not gain full first amendment protections.  But generally disclaimers are constitutional because deceptive speech is 100% not constitutional (the whole reason why libel and slander laws are constitutional), and the speech necessitating a disclaimer may be deceptive without the disclaimer.  At the end of the day the consumer and the blogger are better protected by adding a simple disclaimer to the review.

  •  does this mean I have to send the books back or (9+ / 0-)

    claim them as income for reading and writing a non compensated review?  Fluck it  don't send me any more free books  most aren't worth the time to read..if they didn't send them for free I seriously doubt if I would have bought it to write a review on it......

    •  if they simply mark them "Not for Resale" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wvmom

      then they no longer have commercial value and this whole issue is moot.

      This was S.O.P. for review software we received at a trade technical publication in the pre-internet days.

      When we no longer needed the software around for reference, we would donate it to schools or nonprofits.

  •  trouble (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mungley, IngeniousGirl

    If your following the rules for old media gets you into trouble, what could the consequences be?  I'm thinking that when Rs return to power, your out of business.

  •  Good for you (10+ / 0-)

    I can't imagine how Cleland could be so divorced from reality here. The idea that bloggers are somehow different from the book reviewer at the Seattle Times boggles my mind.

    •  I know my buddy who reviews at a newspaper... (0+ / 0-)

      ...has built his game collection off of demo copies that the publishers send him.

      Can't get him to send me his copy of Rock Band: The Beatles.

      "I set up a stage, put up a few banners, stuck a podium up there, and started shouting 'Yes we can.' Next thing you know there's 150,000 people here." -Joe

      by Geiiga on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 06:49:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow, this is whacked. (13+ / 0-)

    So I guess music reviewers are screwed. Try selling a promo cd for the "retail value"

    If that is considered compensation... especially when two thirds of what you may receive is crap to begin with.

  •  Rock it, Markos. (13+ / 0-)

    Unbelievable drivel from the FTC.

    American democracy: One dollar, one vote. See? Equality!

    by psnyder on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 05:38:54 PM PDT

  •  Does this mean we could all (8+ / 0-)

    send our copies of O'Reilly's books back and have the money returned?

    Oh, sorry, wrong site, ;-)

    Some people make you want to change species

    by ulookarmless on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 05:39:23 PM PDT

  •  Kick their asses, Kos. (7+ / 0-)

    And I mean that in the best way possible.

    I sure wish my government gave me as much privacy as they demand I give them.

    by Daddy Bartholomew on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 05:39:27 PM PDT

    •  It also occurs to me, that from Cleland's (6+ / 0-)

      quote:

      "If there’s an expectation that you’re going to write a positive review," said Cleland, "then there should be a disclosure."

      one major caltrop in his path would be a standard disclaimer that any products reviewed are under no expectations of a positive review.

      Therefore, by his standards, no disclosure necessary.

      I sure wish my government gave me as much privacy as they demand I give them.

      by Daddy Bartholomew on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 05:42:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Or, you know... (0+ / 0-)

        ...be sure to rip the shit out of things that are bad.

        "I set up a stage, put up a few banners, stuck a podium up there, and started shouting 'Yes we can.' Next thing you know there's 150,000 people here." -Joe

        by Geiiga on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 06:50:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Monitors of the Monitors of the Monitors (17+ / 0-)

    Bullshit, and come sue anyone who doesn't file their "disclosure"

    As a lawyer of over 28 years I can't wait to see the bureaucracy they invent to receive, review, handle, house, litigate the "disclosures" of the reviews by the reviewers.

    Hopelessly out of touch with reality

    Someone looking for a Kingdom, he's only got a toilet.

  •  It's easy to see that bloggers (7+ / 0-)

    will sell their souls and reputations in exchange for a $10.00 book. That's retail price. It probably cost the author about $5.00.

  •  A-fucking-men (13+ / 0-)

    What about people who do both and don't get paid for either?  I post a review on my blog, I send a review to a newspaper. Same review, same bullshit stupidity from the FTC.

    Put me on the legal defense fund list if the idiots do decide to come after us.

  •  There's a difference between books & playstations (5+ / 0-)

    When I first read the rules it made sense to disclose that you received a free $300.00 of hardware. That's more than any freelance book reviewer would make for a review.

    I know of news organizations that 'sell' their review stuff to staff for $1.00 doesn't that count?

    Anyway, bloggers should just mention that they got  a free copy of the piece of crap they re reviewing. Will that make the FTC happy?

    "Won't you try just a little bit harder? Couldn't you try just a little bit more?" - R. Hunter

    by mungley on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 05:42:07 PM PDT

  •  it would be nice to look at the TV (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zeke L, IngeniousGirl

    all these "guests" on talk shows, who gets paid? Do the bosses direct the coverage?

    •  We could have Running Banner at Kos Top naming (0+ / 0-)

      all of them, in Flash or something, just not raging orange and green (just kidding!)

    •  What about the generals (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marina, Karl Rover, CMYK, Eric Jaffa

      who were paid by the GWB White House to agree with everything GOP?  Aren't there already laws on the books against perpetrating propaganda against the citizens of the U.S.?

      Why doesn't Cleland go enforce those laws and leave us book publishing types alone?

      GOP: Turning the U.S. into a banana republic since 1980

      by Youffraita on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 06:00:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  because of media conglomerates (0+ / 0-)

      many of the books and movies you see flogged on the various "news" programs are in fact properties of another branch of the same giant corporation.

      if you watch CBS, NBC, CNN etc. you will notice that different titles are getting focus pieces depending on which publishing imprint or movie studio belongs to the same family.

      so how come they don't have to disclose that?  it would be a real eye-opener, i think.

      l'homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers

      by zeke L on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 08:05:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  So what's stopping bloggers from just, uh, lying? (6+ / 0-)

    I've received a book for review purposes before, but umm, now that you reallllllly make me think about it, I do seem to remember buying it at a bookstore and no, sir, I did not keep the receipt (wink).

    How the heck does FTC have authority here anyway?  I sure as hell never signed any agreements with them when I launched my blog.

  •  I sometimes review (11+ / 0-)

    open source, publicly available, free software.  I'm not sure how to return that....

    Earns no money here for blogging, commenting, or driving traffic to any web site.

    by mem from somerville on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 05:47:04 PM PDT

    •  Oh this is rich, how to return Open Source! n/t (7+ / 0-)
    •  i thought that too. (6+ / 0-)

      talk about missing the point of new media and content.
      How do you return ideas?

    •  Aieee (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mem from somerville

      If you return a GPLed program, does the recipient need to report it as compensation? :-)

    •  Not the same at all (0+ / 0-)

      I don't know why but Kos' Diary and this thread impress me as the ideas of people having their feelings of entitlement and intellectual superiority attacked or questioned, as if they are above such mundane rules by a regulating agency.  I am sure Senators and Members of Congress felt the same way when their free rides in terms of $50.00 gifts and dinners and seats at the opera, etc. were restricted or eliminated.  I have read arguments here that the books are of miniscule value, are just junk anyway and mean nothing, so what's the big deal.  Why not require that the damn books be donated to libraries?  I also read here that it would be an undue burden for bloggers to have to return "all" of those books.  In my state tires have a special tax that helps pay for their disposal when they are no longer useful.  Books, as we know, cause the depletion of the earth's trees - their use is costly in a green sense - this would be similar to a carbon tax.  Someone needs to pay for that, in this case the publisher or whoever sends the book to the blogger. Additionally, I see that one person feels that since he marks up and otherwise defaces the books he reviews this is a ludicrous suggestion. What? These objections seem to be excuses for the real issue, that perhaps bloggers who are reviewers feel they are above any thought that they might need to be above reproach and held to a strict code of professional & ethical behavior (bloggers are to be treated as equal to other press and journalists, which I firmly believe) as are others who might benefit, even incidentally, from the perks of their chosen work. One more thing, the critics who review restaurant quisine pay for their food, don't they?  If they don't, their credibility suffers.

      •  A restaurant reviewer who announces he's (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Four of Nine

        reviewing the restaurant, where's his free meal to review, is going to be treated just a bit different from a reviewer who is not known to the restaurant...

        Sure, there are both kinds. But I'll pay more attention to the ones who do their reviewing incognito.

        I sure wish my government gave me as much privacy as they demand I give them.

        by Daddy Bartholomew on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 07:11:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  And what exactly constitutes a "blog" (10+ / 0-)

    in the eyes of the FTC? When is a website a "blog" and when is it just a "website?" Is an affiliate marketer who doesn't "blog" but who makes a sales pitch for the products he markets going to be considered a "blogger?" Is a website run by the company that actually produces a product (and obviously compensated for sales) which says positive things about its own product going to be held to these rules? It's insane. A basic terms and conditions page that describes possible compensation should be more than sufficient.

    -6.75,-3.85 Republicans drove the country into a ditch and now they are complaining about the cost of the tow truck.

    by Sagebrush Bob on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 05:48:55 PM PDT

  •  so transparency is not so good (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IngeniousGirl

    You could chose to develop a model that promotes transparency and demonstrates that bloggers are actually BETTER than traditional media, but instead you decide to hide behind a bad rule that protects influence peddling.

    Personally I think the better thing to do would be to distinguish yourself against the ills of the corporate owned media.  Just because they play a disingenuous game doesn't mean liberal bloggers have to.

    •  Maybe you're missing the point (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marina, Dbug

      This rule absolutely reeks of being bought and paid for by the big media outlets. It's not the first time business has used the government to fuck people over, and it won't be the last. The only way to do anything about it, is to fight it. Trying to take some perceived moral high ground accomplishes absolutely nothing.

      Nothing brings people together more than mutual hatred.

      by Hannibal on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 06:10:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think (5+ / 0-)

    that you need to call Cleland a fucking moron a few more times. Seriously.

    I also don't like the insinuation that all it takes for me to write a good review is a free copy of the book. And that I can survive on the "compensation" a free book entails.

    I'm guessing a newspaper reviewer paid to write a review of a product put out by the newspaper's parent company is in the clear.

    Are you on the Wreck List? Horde on Garrosh.

    by Moody Loner on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 05:50:50 PM PDT

  •  affirmative (9+ / 0-)

    As somebody who is reviewing or has reviewed books for daily and weekly newspapers, monthly and quarterly magazines, webzines and my own books blog, I can confirm that Kos speaks truly about how it all works.

    The truth is that many publications consider the book (or CD, DVD. etc.)as part of the compensation, and reviewers are free to keep it, sell it or give it for Christmas.  Review editors don't assign every book etc. they get, so that's some cream for their coffee.

    Factor this as well: publishers send books directly to reviewers in the hopes that they will persuade editors to assign them to review these books, and that includes editors of newspapers.

    When you're the editor as well as the reviewer of a blog, what's the difference?

    These rules are such nonsense, especially since there are major big bucks situations of blatant kickbacks, fraud, conflict of interest, etc.  But why go after big corporations with lots of lawyers?  Go after bloggers.

    "The end of all intelligent analysis is to clear the way for synthesis." H.G. Wells "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." Bob Dylan

    by Captain Future on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 05:51:43 PM PDT

  •  Mystery money from nowhere! (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kos, quotemstr, Youffraita, Karl Rover, CMYK

    "I expect that when I read my local newspaper, I may expect that the reviewer got paid," said Cleland. "His job is to be paid to do reviews. Your economic model is the advertising on the side."

    Where does this guy think newspapers' payroll comes from? Is is conjured from thin air?

    It comes from advertising, genius.

    "Victor Laszlo, the purest of heroes..." - Umberto Eco

    by VictorLaszlo on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 05:52:03 PM PDT

  •  Unenforceable (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    silence, marina, Hannibal, quotemstr, Eloise

    and idiocy. Why?  

    In 1932, in Northam Warren Corporation v. Federal Trade Commission, 59 F.2d 196, 198 (2d Cir. 1932), the Court considered the very issue addressed by the new Guidelines, truthful review of a free product.  Here is what they said:

    The Federal Trade Commission Act does not purport to establish a decalogue of good business manners or morals.

    and

    Because a prominent person ventures an opinion without being requested to do so is no guaranty either of veracity or good judgment. If the testimonials involved here represent honest beliefs of the indorsers, there is no misrepresentation concerning the product, and no unfair competition is created. We have no right to presume that indorsers of commercial products falsify their statements because they have received compensation. There are no misrepresentations, and the Commission was without jurisdiction.

    Yes, that is a 1932 case.  That's pretty old.  Do we really want to rely on something that old?  Two more modern state courts have, the Georgia Court of Appeals in Zeeman v. Black, 273 S.E.2d 910 (Ga.App. 1980), and the Massachusetts Court of Appeals in Newton v. Moffie, 434 N.E.2d 656 (Mass.App. 1982).  Also, it is well reasoned, and the underpinnings of the reasoning remain valid.

    I'm actually working on this, in detail, to publish at PALATE PRESS: The online wine magazine, on Thursday.  

    Done with politics for the night? Have a nice glass of wine with Two Days per Bottle.

    by dhonig on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 05:52:39 PM PDT

    •  Here's the question I would have (0+ / 0-)

      (having worked for newspapers and magazines in the past):

      Does Amazon or McGraw-Hill or any other advertiser advertise on this site expecting positive reviews for their books or other products?

      That seems a much more valid search for fraud than trying to follow what happens to a book once it's reviewed.  Of course it's impossible to prove such fraud, but no more difficult than tracking a book and proving what was in the mind of the publisher who supplied the book or the reviewer who wrote the review.

      Does the FTC really have so little to do?

      "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

      by SueDe on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 07:09:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nobody from the FTC will come looking. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kos, marina, Caoimhin Laochdha, CMYK

    They sound too damn stupid to put their shoes on, let alone find someone.

  •  How about (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quotemstr, CMYK

    I'm going to review this book or product, and I have the owners balls in my pocket? Against the law?

    I'd say you aptly named this act the "If Cows Could Fly Act of 2009".

    How can such an idiot be in Obama's government?

  •  I have a few friends that work in Publishing... (0+ / 0-)

    as Book/author agents, what a nightmare this must be for them.

    What, do they have to sign a release for every promo they send out?

    This is really fucked up... I can't wait to talk to them about it.

  •  If it wasn't for the irony, I'd be furious too (0+ / 0-)

    Keeping an open mind is good unless your brains spill out. Bertrand Russell

    by catchnrelease on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 05:57:11 PM PDT

  •  I'm having some confusion about this Diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Besdeekian

    On the one hand, the Diarist's case is logical and makes sense the way it is argued.  However, immediately, some things jumped out at me.  The argument is one of the need for supreme fairness.  Life and laws and governments are not always completely fair.  My grandson knows this and he is eight. On the other hand, laws and justice need to be equal and fair.  That is true.  Two additional immediate thoughts came to me. First, the books could be donated to libraries, an easy solution that might satisfy everyone, including the FTC.  Public libraries could provide receipts, thus documenting the requirement.  Secondly, there could be a simple requirement that those sending the books for review must provide and pay for their return as part of the contract between reviewer and publisher.  These are my thoughts.

    •  Kos' point is that someone reviewing a book for a (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Val, Hannibal

      ...blog should be subject to the same rules as someone reviewing a book for a newspaper.

      So if all book reviewers are required to donate their books to libraries or disclose that they got a free book, that would be different.

  •  ftc and fcc prollems...that'd be fox. (0+ / 0-)
  •  well said (4+ / 0-)

    At Bookflurries: Bookchat this Wed. I will be mentioning some books from DKos authors and I will mention that I paid for every one of them myself.

    For disclosure purposes, I will say that quite a while back I did receive two books for free and one I mentioned having been given and one I did not, but I will in future.

    As kos said, I would never give a good review of a book I disliked for love or money. :)

    There was one lady here whose book I bought and read and hated and I mercifully just never mentioned it.  No point in being mean.

    sarahnity has her list of Daily Kos authors up over on the right hand side right now and there are some wonderful books!!  Please support our authors so they can keep on writing!!!!

    Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 06:00:03 PM PDT

  •  That is so ridiculous (9+ / 0-)

    "In the case where the newspaper receives the book and it allows the reviewer to review it, it’s still the property of the newspaper. Most of the newspapers have very strict rules about that and on what happens to those products."

    This person has zero idea what he's talking about. I have worked in the magazine industry for years. I've worked for scores of major publications. They all have what they call "swag tables," which are tables or counters set up where they dump all the books and other products they get sent for reviewing, free for anyone who wants to take one.

    Strict rules? These products are treated as rubbish.


    "Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare."

    by Zackpunk on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 06:00:12 PM PDT

    •  The VA hospitals certainly could use the (0+ / 0-)

      the "rubbish" you call those books and magazines.  One of you reviewers/bloggers/writers might want to think about encouraging your colleagues in that regard as the need for books and magazines is tremendous at those institutions.  Maybe the publishers could pay for colelction and distribution.

      •  Not worth it (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Val

        You should understand, the vast majority of these materials are pre-proofed paperbacks of unknown authors, writing about specialized subjects that wouldn't interest most people. I would not describe any of these books as sought after. Most of them remain unclaimed on the swag table, and then recycled.


        "Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare."

        by Zackpunk on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 07:57:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  travel writers get free vacations (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, Hannibal, statsone

    someone said they (travel writers) don't have to disclose this because "everyone already assumes they get the freebie"- isn't this a ridiculous standard? i expect a DVD reviewer to get to keep the DVD, but the FTC errs on the side of disclosure anyway. just not for the high-dollar whores in the MSM.

  •  kos emo = the best emo. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hannibal

    lol!

  •  Sounds unconstitutional to me. Not that has (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hannibal, quotemstr, statsone

    stopped the government in the past.

    Krusty the Klown Brand Irate Emoticons (tm) So You Can Express the Hate You Didn't Know You Had!

    by brentbent on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 06:06:05 PM PDT

  •  Noting - (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hannibal

    This is Obama's FTC, and Obama's Attorney General who has not sent them a copy of the Bill of Rights.

    I don't think he's encouraging them. He just isn't minding the store.

  •  Cleland is a fucking moron (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina

    I think we've already established that Cleland is a fucking moron, so no, of course he's not aware that 1) paid reviewers hold on to their swag, and 2) how many traditional media reviewers DON'T GET PAID to write those reviews.

    Kos, is it necessary to call the guy a "fucking moron" because you disagree with him and can pick some holes in his answers? If there's some background here about Cleland that justifies your anger and name calling, you should add it to the post. Otherwise your invective is completely out of line. You sound like a teabagger.

    •  Yeah, I know Rich Cleland (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Russycle

      I sat across from him and negotiated two settlements on behalf of advertising clients, and I think he's actually one of the best guys the FTC has at the trial attorney level.  His background's in consumer protection out of Iowa, and he is Iowa smart, not D.C. dumb.  

      The guy is not a fucking idiot.  He's just wrong here, and he's trying to make the endorsement guidelines stronger for word-of-mouth advertising, and he's just going in the wrong direction.  

      Jeses Christ, kos, I realize this is where your bread is buttered, but you aren't the target here.  Simmer down.  

      Change takes time. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

      by LarsThorwald on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 06:12:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Idiot is as idiot does. (0+ / 0-)

        And that interview was jam-packed with idiot.

        •  ... or as idiot writes (0+ / 0-)

          I'd like to have a transcript of you being interviewed about any issue outside of or tangentially related to your expertise, if you have any, and then have an expert comb through it to show you are a "fucking idiot" by pointing out your errors and inconsistencies.

          •  When I set Federal policy on such issues, (0+ / 0-)

            I'll give whatever interviews you want.  This dude sets policy directly restricting first amendment rights.  And he doesn't appear to know what he's talking about.  How is that OK with you?  Just because you know him and think he's a good guy in other contexts?  We've lived through nearly a decade of this crap, is it really so much to expect that the government be run by non-idiots?

      •  He's a fucking moron (0+ / 0-)

        If he doesn't want to telegraph his moronosity to the whole world, then he shouldn't talk about something he clearly knows nothing about, in effect setting government policy in a sensitive First Amendment zone.

        Smart people know when to shut up.

        •  More quotes from same interview with Cleland (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LarsThorwald

          "These are very complex situations that are going to have to looked at on a case-by-case basis to determine whether or not there is a sufficient nexus, a sufficient compensation between the seller and the blogger, and so what we have done is to provide some guidance in this area. And some examples in this area where there’s an endorsement.”

          Cleland elaborated: “I think that as we get more specific examples, ultimately we hope to put out some business guidance on specific examples. From an enforcement standpoint, there are hundreds of thousands of bloggers. Our goal is to the extent that we can educate on these issues. Looking at individual bloggers is not going to be an effective enforcement model.”

          These quotes provide the best context of that interview, and make it clear that he's not by a long shot "effectively setting government policy", as you say. In your eagerness to label him a fucking idiot, you also rely quite heavily on the interviewers descriptions of what Clelend said, which may or may not be fully accurate. Completely lame to call civil servants trying to do their job and explain guidelines to people who call them to ask questions fucking idiots.

  •  What a maroon! (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kos, Catte Nappe, marina, Youffraita, jethrock, CMYK

    Even the payola scandal in the record business involved some pay for play:  it was some real additional money, not the product itself, in exchange for air time.  If a publisher sent me a book and a nice fat check for a thousand dollars, with a wink and a nod that I'd follow through with a favorable review, then I'd admit I was being bribed.  But just sending the book?  You've got to be kidding.    

    I've written so many book reviews for which my sole payment was the book in question.  Given the fact that I mark a book up all to sh*t when I'm reading it for review, the book's not even even worth donating to a library when I'm done with it.  

    Oh, Marcos, just a bit of local history: about 30 years ago, Writers Books in SF on Webster off of Union sold review copies that had been sent to reviewers.  The books were at deep discount.  So there ya go:  a marketing model from three decades ago that has since gone out of business.  Thanks, FTC, for being so foward-looking!

  •  Idiots. I love your writing when you are wound up (0+ / 0-)
  •  Regarding Book Reviews/-ers (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, CMYK

    The publisher freely and willingly gives the book to the reviewer to be reviewed when the publisher wants that person to write the review.  It matters not whether the publisher gives the book to an individual or an entity.  It's a "gift."

    The publisher doesn't give the book to the entity anticipating the entity will write the review.  It expects a known or particular reviewer employed at or by that entity to write it.

    So, the entity has "rules" about what to do with the book following a review.  Don't you think that the publisher -- if it wanted the books returned -- would do the same and have its own rules about individuals doing so once they're reviewed?

    After all, if the publisher is anxious to make the money off selling used books (uh-huh) they'd certainly watch out for their own best interests.  It boggles the mind that the publisher requires protection from the odd book given to individuals working its way into the open book-buyers market in a way disadvantageous to its interests.

    This is a case of over-protection of a party who neither wants nor needs it.

    "Give me but one firm spot to stand, and I will move the earth." -- Archimedes

    by Limelite on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 06:12:49 PM PDT

  •  Even retail bookstores rip the covers off (0+ / 0-)

    the books that they can't sell and all the shit gets recycled.

    I always hated seeing that happen to books... but with so much of... what else could you do? Donate them to libraries? No, that would eat into the profits.

  •  Who proposed this rule? (0+ / 0-)

    Yet another Bush holdover kept for the sake of bipartisanship?

  •  MmmmHmmm (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina

    I read half a dozen or more reviews of books in my newspaper every Sunday. Some seem to be written by local authors, others by professors of literature at local colleges/universities, others by nationally famous for something or other names. Some reviews are quite flattering and enthusiastic, some are devastatingly negative, many are damning with faint praise or suggesting that the book serves some useful purpose for light-weight minds, etc.

    Not a single one of them has said "the publisher sent me a free copy of this book, which I may ultimately sell for my own enrichment". However, I know they probably do enrich themselves accordingly - based on the number of lightly used trade copies at my local used bookstore. By my guess a really prolific reviewer might raise...oh, $50 a year, maybe?

    "The required presence of health professionals did not make interrogation methods safer, but sanitized their use" Physicians for Human Rights

    by Catte Nappe on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 06:24:21 PM PDT

  •  Everyone Has a Policy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina

    I guess that if someone were sending me things to review (which they aren't, BTW), then I'd just establish a policy that I didn't own them at all. I would then note in my policy that I would return them to any entity that sent them to me ON THEIR REQUEST.

    Since I didn't take possession of them, then I don't suppose that they are compensation.

    Of course, that would mean that I couldn't give them away to anyone or sell them, but I really don't care. They are just on permanent loan, anyway.

    As for the FTC, I think the applicable quote from Vonnegut has something to do with a rolling donut and the moon.

  •  this is insane (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DavidNYC, Eloise, jethrock

    has this guy ever been to the Strand in New York? There's a whole huge section of reviewer's copies. What does he think happens to them? They hand them to the writers, or more often to interns, and then they go sell them for lunch or cigarette money. Almost all TradMed reviewer's copies end up getting sold at used book stores.

    •  That's what my brother said. (0+ / 0-)

      Actually, he said it was "fucking insane!!!"

      He has a small blog and gets "inundated" with books. He even contacted the publishers to send them back and they said no way, it'd be easier just not to send them to him in the first place.

      Healthcare reform without a public option is lipstick on a pig.

      by thinkdouble on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 09:27:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not sure using books as example makes a point. (0+ / 0-)

    "Most book reviewers (political bloggers included) get dozens, if not hundreds of books, per year. The logistics and expense of such a thing makes it impractical."

    I don't think anyone is talking about book reviews. The book is of no value a nice iPhone, xBox or killer gamer laptop is another story.  As far as complaining about the logistics, just drop it off to local school or FreeGeek spot or, for books, the local library.

    I'm all for the transparency and the increase in viral marketing makes the FTC rules reasonable.

  •  and if you're elected to Congress... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kos

    or hold any government position, you could take a job in an industry you had been tasked to "oversee".

    Now there's some compensation that needs to be addressed, not this FTC bs.

    Too many books, too little time. . . .

    by papicek on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 06:41:37 PM PDT

  •  What about knowledge gained from a book? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jethrock

    Are you now supposed to send back a few brain cells?

    Maxie Baucus took an axe, gave Single Payer 40 whacks. And when he saw what he had done, gave Public Option 41. (NO, Max! Bad Senator!)

    by SciMathGuy on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 06:57:39 PM PDT

  •  Kos, if it comes to it... (0+ / 0-)

    ...you can expect to us Kossaks to create the biggest legal defense fund ever. By the time we're done with the FTC lawyers, we'll have custody of their kids.

    We've got your back.

    The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

    by mftalbot on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 07:09:36 PM PDT

  •  In past I've written reviews (0+ / 0-)

    Of movies and of computer software/hardware (for print publications). Movies are always free to reviewers. Software and books are always sent out free. It shouldn't matter if it's being reviewed in print or on the internet.

    Computer hardware sometimes needs to be returned -- you get to keep it for a month or so, then you send it back prepaid or C.O.D. As I understand it, the people who review cars have to return them when they're done.

    I think the new rule is bullshit.

    ---

    However, I can kind of see the FTC's point. Suppose a woman writes a daily blog about the joy and tribulations of being the mother of an infant. She gets thousands of readers. If she gets a year's supply of Pampers and a year's supply of baby formula, perhaps she should mention that before she talks about how good the products are. She's not actually reviewing the products, but if she mentions them a lot, she's endorsing them.

    Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.

    by Dbug on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 07:12:12 PM PDT

  •  No Blogger Discrimination, Period (0+ / 0-)

    Don't these people have other things to do.

  •  Word. (0+ / 0-)

    You tell 'em.  Seriously.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 07:23:04 PM PDT

  •  Hang on just a second (0+ / 0-)

    I own a small online retail business. (shameless plug) We sell a lot of gift type items: Body care, toys, baby stuff, chocolate, and some more.

    I constantly get solicitations from bloggers that say if I send them a free product, they'll write a review for it, and once I see how much traffic the review generates, I may want to advertise with them.

    Even more shameless are folks like Pay Per Post.  http://www.payperpost.com/

    Basically, you can put out a specification, give a picture and a bid, and different bloggers will write positive reviews for you.  I usually paid $8.00

    But you don't even have to go there:  Earth Friendly Shopping, Eco Kid Toys, and Fremont Green Buyers Blog are all owned by me.  

    Nothing requires me to disclose the connection.  I do anyway (on the about pages) but it isn't required.

    So, adding some rules would not be entirely out of line

  •  Link to the rules themselves (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    oblomov
  •  At work, I trash projects. The money's spent. (0+ / 0-)

    Sure, we could open a junk store and sell it off.

    That would cost more money.

    It's cheaper to pay someone to trash it and haul it off.

    "They pour syrup on shit and tell us it's hotcakes." Meteor Blades

    by JugOPunch on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 08:13:36 PM PDT

  •  Don't cite to anything, nobody here cares (0+ / 0-)

    Final notice:

    http://www.ftc.gov/...

    So people can judge for themselves, rather than taking things from the pulpit, as it were.

    Their real God is money-- Jesus just drives the armored car, and his hat is made in China. © 2009 All Rights Reserved

    by oblomov on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 08:15:28 PM PDT

  •  I'd be more inspired (0+ / 0-)

    if you had noticed the hypocrisy and urged the FTC to apply the rule to other media.

    I can't for the life of me see the problem in requiring bloggers to disclose that they got free shit.

    Vanity Fair: Have any attacks on America been disrupted thanks to torture; FBI Dir. Mueller: I don't believe that has been the case.

    by ne plus ultra on Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 09:23:26 PM PDT

  •  I know that's how it works... (0+ / 0-)

    ...at my newspaper:

    ...review it, it’s still the property of the newspaper. Most of the newspapers have very strict rules about that and on what happens to those products.

    Also known as "put it with the stack in the breakroom and hope somebody thinks its interesting enough to take home."

  •  When I review books old media or new (0+ / 0-)

    I keep them. Publishers kept sending them no matter what I wrote, and I could be quite caustic, which I rather regret as it turned me into a target.

    I could sell them for a buck or two each. That's how I refresh my fiction library.I trade in old books for used books at a local shop. Except for Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. I reread those frequently.

    But as chess is my profession I choose to keep most books and use them for research.

    I was often paid for reviews but the free books were my main motivation for doing them.

    So a big fuck you to all involved with this pathetic policy.

    Is it not written "There's a lot goes on we don't get told."? (Lu Tze)

    by MakeChessNotWar on Wed Oct 14, 2009 at 12:13:09 AM PDT

    •  I work for a publishing company (0+ / 0-)

      We have publications that review books, movies and TV series among our mix of magazines. A lot of stuff never gets reveiwed.

      But reviewed or not, none of it gets sent back.

      All of it gets stacked out in common areas of the office building, where people come pick up what they want.

      I've got a bag full of children's books by my desk right now that I'm going to be wrapping up for Christmas.

      Previously, I worked for a daily newspaper. It saved all of its review copies (and there was an awesome number of them), then right after Thanksgiving, sold them to the company employees at dirt cheap prices ($1, $2, etc.). The proceeds were donated to a local Toys for Tots program.

      The double standard for bloggers is riddiculous.

  •  As Captain Barbossa explained, (0+ / 0-)

    they're only 'guidelines'....

    Getting Democrats to capitulate is the Republicans' idea of bipartisanship.

    by NoGW on Wed Oct 14, 2009 at 01:10:37 AM PDT

  •  What's a blogger? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mrsmarks

    Serious question.  If I get a free book, read it, then email my thoughts on it to a friend, does that make me a blogger?

    What if I post a quick take on it to Facebook.  Does that make me a blogger?

    What if I have one of those fancy "blog" things you can get free from Google and I write a review there.  Am I a blogger?

    What's a blogger?

  •  this is obviously political (0+ / 0-)

    It is aimed at small fry, and intended to protect the big players.  It creates unreasonable burdens on smaller operators, hoping to drive them out of business.  Obama should stop it, and he can.  

    I have reviewed books for over twenty years for dozens of publications, from academic journals to local newspapers and even a blog.  None of the traditional players had any rules whatsoever about the promo books.  In almost all cases, the organ simply sent a letter to the publisher, who then sent the book to me at my home address, and that was that.  I still have almost every one of those books, though a few have been loaned out and never seen again, and a couple made their way to used books stores where I traded them in for other titles.  

    No doubt, a book is a fungible asset.  Barely fungible in this society, but still, fungible.  

    Nonetheless, bloggers should not be held to standards that big time media do not have to meet.  

    Where are the fairness police?  Where are the law suits?

    Education is the best provision for the journey into old age. -- Aristotle

    by not2plato on Wed Oct 14, 2009 at 06:14:43 AM PDT

  •  Is this the same Richard Cleland... (0+ / 0-)

    ... that I found through Google whose expertise is (allegedly) related to health care fraud?  He also seems to be a lawyer.  But I won't let that get me started on a rant about those lawyers who think their graduating from law school makes them an expert on everything. Except that if these Clelands are one and the same, he seems to have fallen victim to that "I'm a lawyer and I know better than you" malady. That might explain his sudden (self) elevation to expert status on book reviewers.

    •  No, he's an expert on advertising and marketing (0+ / 0-)

      practices.  I believe he is either with Ad Practices at the FTc or he is with Marketing Practices (or maybe Enforcement), but he is clearly with the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

      he comes from a consumer protection background in the area of advertising.  

      Change takes time. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

      by LarsThorwald on Wed Oct 14, 2009 at 07:58:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Using regulators to suppress the competition (0+ / 0-)

    This is pretty standard stuff for many industries.  Larger organizations have the juice and the staff to work the refs and the regulations to boost themselves up and keep the competition down.

    Here, the newspapers and established journalism benefit from an uneven playing field relative to "bloggers".  

    Of course, the greatest threat to an informed citizenry are bloggers getting to keep review copies and other swag, not contractual fine print, dubious marketing claims, and misleading product labeling that are large company stock-in-trade.  

  •  What happens to review copies? (0+ / 0-)

    Actually, if the books aren't marked as reviewer's copies (and they usually aren't), they end up being sold to book stores or on Amazon. If they're in very good shape (i.e., unread), they often get sold as new.

    There is a well known bookstore in Manhattan that sells pristine review copies as new. The publishing industry is well aware of this but says nothing because review copies are in fact a form of bribery. The more books a reviewer can resell, the more likely they are to write good reviews to keep the freebies coming in.

    I think if it were known how many daily newspapers do NOT pay their book reviewers, people would be shocked. Their pay is in books. Lots of books. Not to be reviewed, but to be resold.

    It's a thriving mini cottage industry, and no one writes about it because no one wants to get thrown off the gravy train.

    The more Democrats fight, the more we win.

    by Mark Gisleson on Wed Oct 14, 2009 at 11:35:12 AM PDT

  •  Occasionally, I work as a restaurant critic-- (0+ / 0-)

    and I'd be happy to return my finished meals directly to the FTC. Of course, they'd be in a slightly altered form....

    100 years from now? All new people.

    by Peet on Wed Oct 14, 2009 at 12:43:58 PM PDT

  •  Maybe they don't intend to "police the blogospher (0+ / 0-)

    but

    ... but the letter of their rule / "law" is such that they could. It provides a wide open door to abuse of federal power by targeting individual bloggers who publish strong positions inimical to the interest of whoever controls the agency at any given time. (You know, like George Bush)

    To put it another way, it takes us yet another step closer to Stalin's version of "Law":

    "Show me the man, and I'll show you his crime."

    "Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?" -- A. Lincoln

    by Deighved H Stern MD on Wed Oct 14, 2009 at 05:08:34 PM PDT

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