AskPat 8 Episode Transcript
Pat Flynn: Hey, what's up everybody? Welcome to Episode 8 of AskPat, where I answer your online business question every single day.
Today's episode is brought to you by my lawyer, actually, and he doesn't know I'm doing this, but I want to give him a plug here because he's actually mentioned in today's question, and my lawyer, his name is Richard, you can find him at SoCalInternetLawyer.com. I don't get paid for this, I just . . . he’s doing such a good job for me, I want to give him a shout out. Again, that's SoCalInternetLawyer.com.
Today's question is from Jeff. You'll hear a little bit about what Richard has to say about this question, but he asks about something that's very important because we all do this, we all talk about other companies and other products, and how legal is that and where are the boundaries? So let's hear Jeff's question right now.
Jeff: Pat, my question is, if we do a product review, do we need to get permission from the company, especially if we monetize that page in some way, like whether it's through affiliate links or advertising? Thanks.
Pat Flynn: Hey Jeff, thank you so much for the question, and to answer your question, I actually asked for the help from my lawyer. His name is Richard here in San Diego. You can find him at SoCalInternetLawyer.com, just in case for those of you out there who are looking for a lawyer out here in southern California, and even if you're not, he's very helpful. But anyway, I asked him, if we do a product review, do we need permission from the company? Especially if we monetize that page or have some sort or affiliate relationship with them.
This is what Richard said. He said, “Pat, obtaining company permission is not required, as such reviews are allowed as a matter of free speech even if the review is negative.” He said, “I've seen businesses try to raise copyright objections on these types of things, but a review of a product or a service is considered a commentary under the law. Commentaries are a form of fair use of a copyrighted manner, so a business would not win a copyright infringement lawsuit, and the same concept would apply to any trade market infringement claim by a business.”
Now, he did say that one area where a reviewer needs to be careful is with defamation. Now, the reviewer needs to be based, or the review needs to be based on the characteristics, you know, the pros and the cons of a product or service. All this extra stuff, statements like, “This company obviously just developed a business strategy ripping off Apple.” If I were to say that, that can lead to defamation claims, even in these kinds of situation most business will not act because doing so brings publicity and attention to the damaging claim.
Now, I will say that I found in the paper today actually, in the USA Today there was an article that said, “Bloggers have first amendment protections.” This was as of January 20. Take it for what it is, and I recommend that if you are looking for more information on this, to find somebody who is an expert on this, to find and seek a professional. I am not a lawyer myself, of course. But there was an article that you could read on the USA Today, it says bloggers have first amendment protections. Courts ruled that bloggers have first amendment protection when sued for defamation. Federal appeals court ruled the other day that bloggers and the public have the same first amendment protections as journalists when sued for defamation if the issue is of public concern. Plaintiffs have to prove negligence to win damages, and you can read more about that.
Still, I would just always leave an honest review based on the characteristics, again, the pros and the cons of a certain product. When you start to say all this extra stuff, that can lead you into trouble, and even though you might win in court depending on the situation, it's just a lot of stuff that you don't want to deal with.
So leave honest reviews, and of course if you have an affiliate relationship with these companies and you do earn a commission from them by sharing that product or recommending it and having people go through a special link—even if you don't, even if a company approached you to review a certain product and they were paying you for it—you have to disclose that information. That's under FTC Deceptive Advertising and .Com Guidelines. That's of course if you're in the US. If you're not in the US, you will probably have other rules, but I recommend that you seek your own professionals out there to help you in your best situation.
So hopefully, Jeff, that answers your question. Great question. Again, thank you so much. An AskPat t-shirt is being sent your way as we speak. And for those of you out there, if you have any other questions about online business, small business, entrepreneurship, blogging, podcasting, internet marketing, online business, anything, just let me know. Head on over to AskPat.com and leave a voicemail question for me there. If your question gets featured on the show you will get an AskPat t-shirt, which is awesome. Thank you so much for listening in. I will see you in the next episode.
Thanks for listening to episode 8 of AskPat. I appreciate it so much, and again, a shoutout to my lawyer, Richard, at SocalInternetLawyer.com. Richard, if you're listening to this, you're awesome, thank you so much.
Of course, I want to leave you with a quote today, and that quote is from Henry Ford. He says, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” Think about that. If all you're doing is just trying to make money, that's not really a business at all. So what is it that you're trying to provide? What kind of value are you providing for your audience? When you write these reviews, are you actually providing value or are you just doing it for the money? Don't do it just for the money. Do it to help people out and the money will come your way.
Thanks so much again. This is Pat Flynn from AskPat. Head on over the AskPat.com if you have a question you'd like to ask, and I'll see you in the next episode.
If you need an attorney for your online business, check out my attorney, Richard.