Let’s Talk: Blogger to Blogger | Giveaways Part 1 – Are they legal?

 

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Let’s Talk: Blogger to Blogger is a discussion feature that is aimed and dedicated to bloggers. In which we discuss and debate topics from around the blogging community and inspire others.

For a full list of topics, visit the archive. If you have a topic for discussion let me know!

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Giveaways

They are everywhere. On social media and on individual blogs. With an array of prizes, you can pretty much find anything/everything being given away.

There was a situation recently that kind of upset me pissed me off– related to this when it came to MY PRIVACY and I wanted to address how we as bloggers handle giveaways and how they SHOULD be handled. Yes, I said SHOULD.

There are two parts to this discussion I want to discuss– the ethical side and the legal side. Both are equally important; but to stay out of tl;dr territory, I will break them up into two separate posts.

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Let talks legal today.

I’ve always known that there are laws governing these – and paid attention to most; changing how I run them and who they are open to. However, I started digging deeper. I found that maybe we aren’t as compliant as we thought.

When hosting a giveaway, you have to keep in mind that you are required to remain in compliance with not only US Federal law, State laws and Terms and Conditions (if held on Facebook/Twitter) but also in other countries if your giveaway is international. 99% of the time, we are not.

  • Did you know!?
  • In Canada, the winner can not be chosen by luck, but rather some element of skill must be involved
  • In most sates, a prize over $5,000 has to be licensed, bonded and you must register with the state.
  • Failure to award a prize is COSTLY in most states.

Another example; if your giveaway is open to the ALL of the US – you not only have to comply with Federal Law but with ALL state laws, not just YOUR STATE, because you don’t know where your entries are coming from.

A closer look – what are you hosting?

Sweepstakes

  • These are generally what we host – winners are randomly selected.

Lottery

  • Prize – DUH
  • Chance – Winner is chosen by luck
  • Consideration – Enters with something of VALUE

Contests

  • Winner is chosen based on merit. YOU actually choose the winner based on talent, photo, etc.

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Here is where we run into some problems, my friends;

Have you hosted a giveaway (or entered one) that have a required entry to follow a blog, twitter, leave a comment or visit and/or like before the other entries can be opened? That would be an illegal LOTTERY because; they are in a sense PAYING. YOU are gaining something from their entry, something of value – a follower. NOT ONLY THAT – having a required entry in which the entrant is to navigate to a 3rd party site, like Goodreads and/or Amazon – floats in that gray area as well.

Time is valuable too. So one could argue that spending a LOT of time on entering a sweepstakes could be CONSIDERATION, thus making your sweepstakes an illegal lottery. KEEP.IT.SIMPLE.

It’s a blurred line IMO on whether or not “following” or “liking” OR commenting as an EXTRA entry is legal. Technically, you are still gaining something by that entry, but it’s not required. If you do, that entry cannot have a higher value over the free entry. I couldn’t find anything else on the web regarding this; because there are laws still being “developed” (for lack of a better word).

Now for those under 18. I always thought that disclosing “13 years of age or older with parents’ permission” would CMA (cover my ass). Sadly, I don’t think it does.

One of the things you need to think about is if your contest/giveaway falls into a contract. Minors are not legally held accountable and able to enter a contract – and having parents’ permission is kind of vague. They would have to click a box saying they are giving permission, enter a birthday date and/or email or sign a document. There are many legality issues with this that honestly, I don’t want to touch.

Example; If you check entries and require them to remain a follower, that is, IN A SENSE, a contract. They are agreeing to follow you for a chance at a prize. BLURRED LINES.

Social Media

I thought hosting giveaways on social media were easier – sadly, I was wrong again. As I mentioned before, not only do you have to be compliant with Federal, state and international laws, but now you have an additional layer of the terms and conditions of the site.

Facebook

read full terms and conditions here

You cannot require someone to like your page, comment or SHARE A POST for entries. You can get around this by saying that they have to already be a fan to enter – meaning that the LIKE of your page does not count as an entry. Not only that, you are not able to contact the winner on Facebook OR, are you allowed to host a giveaway on your wall. It HAS to be through a 3rd party app. Furthermore, you have to release Facebook by stating, “[…..] by each entrant, acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored or affiliated with Facebook, and a disclosure statement that the participant is providing information to someone other than Facebook.”

WHOOPS. I do this ALL THE TIME. >.<

If Facebook gets wind of your contest/giveaway that breaks their rules, they WILL shut down your page.

Twitter

read full guidelines here

The only thing I can really find is that you should only require them to RT to enter. Requiring them to follow will put your contest in an illegal lottery category. You could always CYA and state you must be a follower to be eligible, just like with Facebook.

( RT to win (prize) Must be follower to be eligible. Open US end 7/10) or something along those lines.

OR

Link to your Official Rules in the tweet. (RT to #win (prize) subject to official rules (link) Open to US  ends 7/10)

OR

FOLLOWERS: RT for a chance to win (prize) open to US residents, ends 7/10– Thanks Nick

*However – I can’t find anything really supporting this; except for the whole requiring them to follow you THING – so. *shrug*

How to CYA

If you use Rafflecopter, or any third-party site, there is an area for Terms and Conditions. When someone enters, they are agreeing to the terms and conditions that you placed when hitting ENTER. So, always ALWAYS put terms and conditions and Official Rules on your Rafflecopter. AND, have a giveaway official rules page/post and link to it. (I stopping linking but I will now).

ALWAYS HAVE THIS DISCLOSED:

  • “NO PURCHASE NECESSARY” and “VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW” 
  • Have only 1 mandatory entry that is FREE and the rest just optional. (or have them ALL optional) Having the first required entry to visit, like, follow etc is an illegal lottery. Remember, your “extra” entries cannot be worth more entries than your free one.
  • Your prize must be clear – state if you are giving away a gift card, physical book, eBook or audio book. (This is just good practice, anyway)
  • CLEARLY state the value of the prize.
  • CLEARLY state who can enter. Remember, Federal State and international laws, baby.
  • How long does it last?
  • How to enter – Even saying, “Enter below using the Rafflecopter and follow the prompts” should cover you.
  • How Winner Is Chosen – You must disclose how the winner will be chosen.
  • Technical Issues – Do you delete duplicate entries? YOU NEED TO TELL THEM
  • What are the odds? I typically say, “The number of eligible entries determines odds”
  • Is the prize sponsored? You should disclose that! This is major and just ONE thing I will address next time.
  • Do not extend your giveaway or change the prize.
  • You NEED a privacy page and disclosure. You are collecting PII (Personally Identifiable Information) and you need to disclose how it is used, where it is stored and that you don’t sell or give it away. (more on this later)

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Now, I know what you might be thinking. “Has anything EVER really happened?” (Probably not) or “But so and so hold these giveaways all the time!” (that does not make it legal). However, there was a situation where a blogger was sued, I just can’t find the info to save my lifeIs stealing okay because you weren’t caught? Is speeding okay because you weren’t pulled over? NO. Laws are laws, people.

I honestly think the popularly of these blog and social media giveaways are the reason that there haven’t been many issues. No one has the time (or resources) to track, monitor and prosecute everyone; and you can’t hold one person accountable and not everyone else doing the same thing.

I hate to say it – BUT. There are people that WILL report you, especially if something doesn’t go their way. The odds are low that someone will stumble upon your illegal giveaway and press charges, but it’s another situation if someone reports you and you are investigated. My advice is to play it safe. There is no harm in that. And if you are thinking that you might not gain any followers for hosting giveaways, lawfully?? Well, it’s just not worth it.

Sooner or later, the laws governing Sweepstakes, Contests and Lotteries on the internet will catch up. What then?

Changes to Lilybloombooks?

Uh, yes.. I am pretty confident that, for the most part, I have been in compliance (within the past year or so >.<). However, the age and international laws kind of freak me out a bit.  I have a few giveaways currently going on now – so changes wont start until after those are done. I will have an update on a later date on what I am doing to comply will ALL the laws.

For more information, please visit — Social Media Examiner , Sarah F Hawkins  or you know, just Google it.

Discourse. I am not a lawyer. I am however, a compliance officer and deal with laws, rules and regulations on the daily.

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Let’s Talk
  • Are your giveaways legal?
  • Was any of this information helpful?
  • What will you do now about holding giveaways on your blog or social media sites? Any changes?

 

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58 thoughts on “Let’s Talk: Blogger to Blogger | Giveaways Part 1 – Are they legal?

    1. tonyalee

      I didn’t either – I found this out when I was doing all my research! Who thought it was so hard to just GIVE something away!?

        1. tonyalee

          Oh really? I have to pay more attention then. I always see VISIT on facebook and follow and mandatory entries.

  1. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I pretty much never do mandatory entries, but there are plenty of other things here that I haven’t been compliant with. I definitely have had entries for following on Twitter (heck, that’s one of the “standard” entries on Rafflecopter). And I’m not good about always putting my terms and conditions on my Rafflecopters either. I’ll definitely have to look at this the next time I do a giveaway. Looking forward to your next post on this!

    1. tonyalee

      you can have them follow you on twitter, but it cant be required (ie, mandatory to open the remaining entries)

  2. Nereyda Gonzalez

    This is why I hate doing giveaways. If I’m participating in a tour, I don’t do them anymore unless the publisher sends the code to me, then it’s on them.
    I knew most of these but definitely not all of them!
    I really despise the mandatory facebook entry because I don’t have a fucking facebook. I also hate when authors require you to mail proof of purchase, which is also very illegal.
    It’s like how nobody thinks anything will happen to them for using pictures they find on Pinterest or Tumblr, but it HAS happened to a few bloggers.
    Nereyda Gonzalez recently posted…Weekly Recap & Book Haul (156)My Profile

    1. tonyalee

      I do believe there was a situation with the giveaway thing, but I can’t find it (Nick can’t either, and she was helping me) I would have to do more research on the proof of purchase.

      I think I am going to put more stipu

    1. tonyalee

      Exactly. I mean, the odds of someone finding it are slim, but everything on the internet is policed by us readers.

  3. Elizabeth

    I try to keep my giveaways simple and not require following. I have a Giveaway policy with all my other FTC disclosures. Right now I am doing a giveaway based on comments, but after reading your post I wonder if getting comments is considered getting something/benefitting. I was just trying to reward regular commentators.
    Elizabeth recently posted…Friday Clips: Luckiest Girl AliveMy Profile

    1. tonyalee

      Yes, receiving comments IS considered gaining something of value. Next time, you can change it up to a CONTEST and it would be fine.

  4. Weekly Wrap Up 7/11 - Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

    […] really opened my eyes to the laws we need to follow when hosting giveaways. Her post: Giveaways – Are They Legal? lays it all out, and I  was only aware of a couple of these […]

  5. sherri ashburner

    Great info–scary isn’t it? Out of all of the blogger giveaways I have seen or entered, each time I click
    on terms and conditions it is BLANK. Dangerous oversight for sure. I agree with the other commenters who said they rarely do them–just not worth the hassles. I will, however, post giveaway links from the publisher if I happen to be participating in a blog tour.

    1. tonyalee

      I see BLANK terms and conditions all the time, too! You could cover yourself if you linked to your own official rules from your blog, but I don’t see that either!

      If you post those giveaways, be sure to disclose that it’s not hosted by YOU, but the publisher (by name) and you are not responsible for verifying entries, choosing a winner or contacting.

  6. Lola

    Great post with lots of usefull info. I am going to bookmark this and finally make a page explaining how I handle giveaways for Lola’s Blog Tours. I often make the rafflecopters for the authors and don’t have mandatory entries and always a free options, so I am doing that right. But I really should write down my terms and conditions somewhere. It’s just so complicated and hard to fugure out what is legal and what not.
    On my own blog I rarely do them, one because I don’t have money for giveaways and two because of all this. Thanks for the informative post!
    Lola recently posted…My To-Be Read List #11: chosen bookMy Profile

    1. tonyalee

      Yes, I would. I have a giveaway policy for checking entries, collecting info etc. but I will be making SO many changes as well!

  7. Silvara

    This was super helpful! I’ve only done one giveaway so far, but have a stack of books I’ve been meaning to set up a giveaway for. Bookmarking this page so I can come back for reference once I get that set up.

    The previous one I did had no mandatory entries. The first option was a Freebie, and the others were things like tweeting about the giveaway and leaving a comment. Nothing about following me. Will have to think up what I want to put in (and what I can!) based on reading this post.
    Silvara recently posted…How Do You Remember New To You Authors?My Profile

    1. tonyalee

      you can technically have them follow/tweet as long as the entries are not higher than your freebie. I’m glad it helped!!

  8. Ashley

    This is a great post!

    I see a lot of people complain when giveaways are “US only.” I always try to explain to people that it’s not a matter of shipping costs (usually) it’s because hosting an international giveaway can actually be quite expensive because a business will probably need a lawyer to help them comply with all international laws and it’s actually very confusing!

    It’s almost kind of sad how much effort it requires to give something away for free.
    Ashley recently posted…5 Things I Need to Change About My BusinessMy Profile

    1. tonyalee

      Thanks lady!

      I honestly didn’t even start to look into International laws. Tackling US ones are hard enough, and I know there is SO much more information out there to read about. If you don’t mind (and have time) could you email me some of the laws where you are?

  9. Stormy

    This is such an informative post–thank you! I think I’ve done well with the giveaways I’ve run on my blog itself, because I always thoroughly research updates to these kinds of laws and have very clear policies, but I was a bit iffy on the twitter giveaways that require a follow. Now I know!
    Stormy recently posted…Book Review: Emmy & Oliver by Robin BenwayMy Profile

    1. tonyalee

      I have been iffy on them too – and Twitter doesn’t have much outlined in their guidelines and never responded to my tweet!

  10. Amanda @ Nellie and Co.

    This research is crazy Tonya, but it’s so good that you’ve put it together. Being in the UK, our laws are a little more black and white, but it’s still sometimes hard to understand what it is we can and cannot do, but this will definitely help a lot of people unsure about the legalities involved, and I’ll be sure to share this with my followers too! 😀
    Amanda @ Nellie and Co. recently posted…An A-Z of Nellie and Co.My Profile

    1. tonyalee

      Thank you! I feel like I only brushed on the surface, too! It would be great if we could chat about the laws in the UK. I’m really curious.

  11. Diana Leigh

    Yep, this is why I stopped hosting giveaways a few years ago. They’re too much hassle, too much stress. Authors and publishers providing prizes didn’t seem to realize there were rules to follow, so I quit!

    The Canadian one is interesting, isn’t it? I’ve seen where they make you solve an easy math problem to enter a sweepstakes. Seems odd to me. *shrugs*
    Diana Leigh recently posted…First Chapter • First Paragraph • Tuesday Intros {3}My Profile

  12. Joséphine @ Word Revel

    I had an inkling that legal matters surrounding giveaways weren’t as simple as many bloggers make them out to be and I also read somewhere else that a lot of giveaways were technically lotteries. That’s why I only had a giveaway once, then stopped because I wasn’t sure how I could work within a legal frame. But with your posts, I feel like maybe I can figure things out after all 🙂 The solution with making everything optional in Rafflecopter seems to be a good way forward.
    Joséphine @ Word Revel recently posted…Mise-en-scène #25: In My BagMy Profile

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  14. Jen @ YA Romantics

    I did some research on this way back and I agree it’s really complicated. I stuck all the legalese I could find into my policy: the “void where prohibited” and the “chance of winning depends on number of entries received.”

    The practical matter is that we (or any giveaway host) can’t research every entrant to make sure they’re over 13, etc. (That would probably be invading their privacy – loved today’s post.) I have something in my policy that says that by entering you certify that you are over 13 and the giveaway is legal where you live.

    I HATE those “unlock” entries on Rafflecopter – they’re annoying and I never use them myself or enter if they’re required. So I’m glad to hear that they shouldn’t be allowed. The only interesting way to use them is that you can use the “unlock” entry to make the entrant certify that they’re over 13, live in the US etc. to unlock the rest.

    I should always check to make sure I link to my giveaway policy on Rafflecopter; thanks for reminding me.

    Jen @ YA Romantics
    Jen @ YA Romantics recently posted…Freebie Friday — INT this week 🙂My Profile

    1. tonyalee

      No there is no way to actually certify that they ARE 13 or over, same way that we are not able to certify someone is over 18. So I agree that wording it carefully, “by entering you certify that you are 13 years of age or older (with parents permission) and legal resident of [country]” That covers you with any legality issues. Or, you could have it in your POLICY, and state that they have to agree to policy rules and regulations and any additional terms and conditions on your rafflecopter.

      It IS illegal to collect ANY PII from anyone under 13. There are several federal laws about this that it is covered by. I think some states might have a higher age range, but federal states 13.

      You can have the “required” entry as long as it’s free – and the rest of your entries have to be less than that free option. (this applies with required or not) because you are stating that NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY. One could argue that that 2 entries they received to follow is payment. Make sense? LOL it’s complicated.

  15. Wren

    Oh my gosh. I didn’t know this was a thing. I didn’t pay attention to the terms and conditions. (Except for the age limits.)
    This is so complicated. I’m not sure I comprehend. I don’t know what to think. Especially since I have my own giveaway going on now…
    Wren recently posted…Review: \’Shadow Kiss\’ by Richelle MeadMy Profile

  16. Amelyn Randall

    I’ve done a total of ONE giveaway on Facebook. I had a total of ONE entry. She successfully won the ONE prize. With this information I’ve learned from you, I’ll just skip the whole Giveaway thing in the future. I’d like my Likes, Follows, etc. to be more organic, anyway, and not the result of someone wanting a prize. Thanks for the great insight into this! I hadn’t thought about it much, because these things are everywhere! I’m not sure it will stop me from ENTERING the giveaways. LOL!
    Amelyn Randall recently posted…Wishing on the Water by Elizabeth YorkMy Profile

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