DISCLAIMER: Wine-Blog is a journal of my PR wine activities and learnings. 1) I occasionally write stories about wine clients, but don’t charge them hours for that time. 2) Wine reviews (and trips) originate from free samples sent by PR people representing the brands. 3) Images are either mostly mine, some are purchased; a few rare ones are part of fair trade usage.

It seemed like it was going to be a pretty dry topic… Legal Issues Every Blogger Should Know

So serious, should I? Okay, I decided to go for it. I was also inspired by Megan Bridget Riley Kenney (Wannabe Wino), as we stood there wondering. We went in. Megan’s an attorney in Washington D.C., and also a wine blogger… always special company.

From the WBC 2017 Agenda:

“Legal Issues Every Blogger Should Know: Did your photograph wind up on someone else’s website without permission? Have you properly disclosed that your wine review is based on a free sample? Your blog may be for fun but the law treats you just like other media and publishers. This panel will go over the practical realities of legal compliance, protecting your copyright, and staying out of trouble. Our speakers include regulatory affairs expert Doug Levy (Doug Levy) and lawyer (Seth Buckley Attorney at Chang Iwamasa LLP), both also wine bloggers.”

That room should have been filled with wine bloggers. There were no lines to get in, everyone had headed out to the other two sexier options of “how to improve their game.” The options:

1. Pitch Perfect – A look at the Blogger-PR Relationship
2. Lights, Camera, Action!
3. Legal Issues Every Blogger Should Know

Honestly, EVERY blogger should have been in that legal room, because sexy is fun (and sells); but, legal covers our sexy butts. This is why I’m launching this journal, as my first report from the Wine Blogger’s Conference of 2017.

If someone wants to wine blog, and s/he is accepting ANY samples of ANYTHING, a disclaimer is mandatory. I’ve written the name of importers, and I’ve highlighted the winery with a link, but I’ve been way off in where it’s been placed. And, I’m willing to bet most wine bloggers are in the same boat with me. Remember: ignorance of the law is still no excuse (with a caveat of – except for a few privileged few). Are you in the two percent? I’m not and I’m now covering my butt. See that disclaimer above? Yeah, it’s mandatory, and on each blog story from this point forward.

There are very strictly written rules about any freebies, by the US Federal Trade Commission. And, they’re cracking down. It may not have happened to a wine blogger yet; but, as we were asked, “Do you want to be the first one issued a $16,000 fine – that you HAVE to pay?”

I thought, “Holy marde, NO!”

Think about that wine bloggers… Your hobby just cost you $16,000. I’d rather take a trip around the world on a sailboat, than to blow that kind of money out the window, simply because I enjoyed a few samples of wine and was negligent of the laws put into place to protect consumers. According to Doug Levy and Seth Buckley, when you’ve written about a wine, and you haven’t got a disclaimer BEFORE you provide a link to the Website, that’s the offense. Why, because the link takes the reader (consumer) to a place of business, where the wine can be purchased. You’ve endorsed (or not) the product, this is an advertisement…

Go to Doug Levy’s Website and read Bloggers must disclose freebies or discounts.  While this is a 2017 updated article, it’s still very relevant. His lead paragraph… I’m betting you see yourself in this article. I know I do.

Many bloggers and other writers rely on product samples or invitations to events to get what they need for their writing. This is particularly true among travel writers, especially when an article requires transportation, lodging, or meals in order for the writer to evaluate and write about a destination or the services available there. The ways bloggers disclose these relationships are as varied as the blogs on which they appear, and the rules that established publications apply to these situations vary just as much.

At a later date, I’ll have more. From all of the people who’ve told me lately, not just at the Wine Bloggers Conference, but emails, Facebook, in person, etc., I offer inspiration, am a role model, and more of the same inkling. It, therefore, is my duty to get you all caught up. I don’t ever want to hear that one of you/us has been taken down.