Full Disclosure For U.S. Bloggers Who Accept Freebies

Regulars on this blog know I can be a bit of a stickler for ethical blogging. I have shared thousands of posts on this blog for millions of views, for free, but that still doesn’t mean you can just “steal it”. Early in the life of this blog, I caught a “photo-napper” and after a bit of noise, he and The Philippine Daily Inquirer, that apparently unwittingly published the stolen photo, apologized in print for the incident. My point? Don’t steal someone else’s intellectual capital or material or use it without permission or proper attribution. And I particularly mean that when a commercial aspect comes into the picture… Hundreds of visitors to this blog know I have graciously allowed them to use photos and recipes on this blog, sometimes for school projects, newspapers, research material, business reports, presentations, etc. — with the only request being that they properly attribute the material to its author/source. Since that episode, I have run across at least a dozen more incidents of unauthorized use of my photos in other blogs, websites, etc., and in most cases, a simple email to them has yielded the proper response. At the moment however, I have discovered that a Filipino-American newspaper based in San Diego also used one of my photos and despite my emails to them, they have refused to acknowledge that they should have properly sourced the photo… more on that if I don’t hear from them soon. Also over the past few years, I have informed other bloggers when I thought their materials had been “stolen” such as a recipe of Connie’s from Pinoycook, and a few other cases.

There was also the brouhaha over plagiarism and this example that started with a column on mangosteens in a large national daily, here. I followed that up with a second post on plagiarism, here. Then I heard back from the “Reader’s Advocate” of the paper here, and finally, got an admission and apology here (though the apology should not have been directed at me, but the readership of the paper in general). The in-flight Magazine of Philippine Airlines, Mabuhay, also featured a photo and article of mine that was erroneously unattributed, and they tried to weasel their way out of the originally disclosed fee (donated to charity) and only after some posts was the matter settled.

I have had other run-ins with folks who misrepresent themselves to get things they want. Folks who tried to pay me to write good reviews. Folks who tried to give me free products, benefits, trips, etc. in order to feature their products or companies. In all cases, I have declined… and sometimes, I made a stink about it, like with the particularly infuriating Mad Crowd Media example here, here and here. But perhaps one of the best posts that summarizes how I feel about blogging ethics appears in this post entitled “Why I Don’t Write for a Newspaper/Magazine and Refuse to Accept Freebies” which opened up a bit of a hornets nest and the comments of that post are MOST interesting.

So I when I received this link to an article about new laws for disclosure for U.S. bloggers who accept freebies from APM, a long-time Marketmanila reader and lawyer, I was thrilled to read that my views on the matter aren’t so bizarre. In fact, they will soon be the “LAW” in the U.S. starting December 1, 2009. I have said it before, and I will say it again, in my PERSONAL OPINION, a credible and ethical blogger or writer/journalist must FULLY DISCLOSE if they received any compensation whether in cash, kind, etc. or if they are related or have an interest in the product, service, person or topic they are writing about. I think it is very difficult for anyone who accepts freebies to remain objective. But that’s just my opinion. And on Dec 1, that is the legal opinion in the U.S. as well. :)


24 Responses

  1. That’s good news!

    We tend to look at blogs as purely personal views which are unbiased and unsolicited. It certainly changes the color of the entry when you find out it was sponsored, paid for, or appears as an entry on someone’s expense account.

  2. sana may ganyan din dito sa pinas, actually not only this particular law but as well as other laws governing transactions and activities done via the Internet.

  3. Good for you MM! Right now there are a lot of social media blitzes/campaigns that get bloggers involved and sad to say they are not disclosing what they get from it. I’m positive there are some monetary or product exchanges there somewhere. However, I believe one argument that was made on the disclosure of bloggers is that print journalists are not obligated to disclose such freebies as well. It’s just best then to take anything you read with a grain of salt.

  4. I wish we had similar laws here in the Phils. That, and identity theft and other laws that aim to protect the consumers, not the companies. No offers from politicians yet, MM? With your vast number of readers, I’m sure some of them (or their PR people) have thought of approaching you for an endorsement. Heehee!

  5. Larees, I have already openly written that I will be supporting Mar Roxas and Noynoy Aquino in the next Presidential and Vice-Presidential election. :)

  6. this is great news and just proper timing considering how most publications are now shifting online.

  7. I think we should support our MM this time!!! Its just happened that my cold blood is for noynoy anyway…..

  8. Oh well, I wonder what’s your stand on bloggers accepting compensation as commercial models/ endorsers of a cellphone brand’s photo service and then running seemingly partisan contests in their blog. LOL

  9. MM, if you haven’t done it yet, google marketmanila and you will find some interesting links that are trying to capitalize on your name, including how much in dollars your site is worth in advertising dollars. Just imagine the revenue each time your popular site gets a hit! There is even one that leads to a person, an Indian name based in Hongkong that links marketmanila to his site.

    Aaahhh to be famous!

  10. One of the reasons I love reading blogs is honest content. The great draw back of traditional print media is the flagrant resort to payola. I admire that you opt to eschew the commercial opportunities for your blog in favor of remaining objective. Keep up the good work. I do believe that there are very few objective opinions in the culinary traditional print media a good example would be Cook’s Illustrated (they don’t carry ads only reviews). Keep your voice honest!!!

  11. Paolo, that cell phone company approached me as well… as did a large TV/Electronics brand recently… and yes, there was compensation in cash and kind potentially involved. I declined. But I would guess I am in the minority on this, ahh, if only the general public would insist on full disclosure… But different scruples for different folks. I can only say that my standards may not be everyone’s standards…

  12. Yes..you are correct in every sense…I think IPR or Intellectual Property Rights…should be strictly imposed…Likewise I think You shoul actually receive ”Royalty” for using your posts and pictures for commercial purposes…like pictures for ads and articles… Plagiarism is a crime and people who engage on this can actually be incarcerated… MM ..I support your drive against ‘photo grabbers..or ”photonappers” as you prefer to call them…

  13. MM, your principles are worth expounding and fighting for. That is one of the reasons why we appreciate your blog – it is commercial free, only honest and fun and transparent appreciation of food, and botany and charitable causes and travel, and interesting misc. – all generously shared.

  14. That is why I really love reading your blog. I know that whatever you say is an honest opinion, therefore, truly informative. Also, your recipes are really good!

  15. I respect MM’s stand on this. I happen to agree with him 100% on full disclosure.

    Many people yell and scream about how the “free market” is the solution to all of our woes. And yet, they support secrecy in that market. Things just work better if there is a proper level of transparency.

    All that said, I think other bloggers who choose to endorse or review should not be denigrated for doing so … AS LONG AS THEY DISCLOSE.

  16. MM, Connie is right your site is worth $23,563 or a cool P1.1M,,,but I know you won’t be bought. We love you for that ;-)

  17. So glad you referred to your post Why I don’t….. Read it, all of it. I get Margaux, and I get you. I write for a living but I also write just because I love to write and I have things I want to say. I do want to have a venue so I can share my ideas with people. Will be coming out with my blog and yes, there will be no ads and no commercial endorsements.

  18. …… and this is one of the major reasons why i totally love this blog – no secrets, no false endorsements of anybody/anything, and no gentle/rude persuasions to buy/try anything.

  19. I was only able to read the article in full today, and I just realized that it didn’t say how they will actually implement the Full Disclosure rule, since it seems that will definitely rely on the bloggers themselves. Unless I read it wrong, which is possible, the FTC is only relying on the honesty of the bloggers in terms of declaring whether they received goodies from a certain brand/company. And once they disclose that they DID accept a gift from a company, do they disclose that in terms of sending an email or some sort of correspondence to FTC or whatever governing body, or will a simple sentence in the blog entry suffice? And what if they DON’T do it? Will their website be banned from search engines or will the domain itself be closed down? I guess the idea behind the new rule is great…but the devil is in the details, really.

  20. MM, I commed you for your high moral standards and ethical behavior. If only our politicians just have the same belief as yours, this country will be on the road to progress. You see, everything boils down to personal values. (Is my discussion a bit off track? :))

  21. this is great news indeed MM…and I respect your stand on blogs being “commercialized”, but the “Ad-woman” in me can’t help but encourage you to accept some endorsements if you really use and believe in their products to begin with…sayang e! :D

  22. That’s great news! Good thing when I started my pseudo-sales blog underneath is a disclosure policy just in case.



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