I have been hosting giveaways on my blog for awhile now. A few times people have pointed out legal issues I might have gotten myself into without realizing it. I think this is probably pretty common right now in the blogosphere. So many people are hosting giveaways but how many of us really consult with lawyers? This morning I received an email from one of my favorite restaurants with an offer to enter a sweepstakes. Out of curiousity I read the entire set of rules associated with it and realized there are so many pieces bloggers are missing.
There are a few steps I recommend to help you understand the legal issues associated with operating a giveaway.
1. Read the actual government laws and guidelines.
Here the guidelines for California: http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/legal_guides/u-3.shtml
I am using that state as an example because they have some additional laws associated with the internet.
If your giveaway is open to the entire United States then you need to be compliant with all of the rules and laws for all 50 states. If your giveaway is open to the entire world, then you need to be compliant with all of the rules and laws for the entire world. It is your responsibility to research that and or hire a lawyer to be sure you are compliant.
2. Understand the difference between a contest and a sweepstakes.
The term giveaway doesn’t really cut it when describing what you are actually doing so you need to be clear if it is a contest or a sweepstakes.
As described in the guidelines for the state of California a contest is:
…any game, puzzle, scheme, or plan which offers prospective participants the opportunity to receive or compete for gifts or prizes on the basis of skill or skill and chance, and which is conditioned wholly or partly on the payment of some value.
As described in the guidelines for the state of California a sweepstakes is:
…any procedure for distributing anything of value by lot or chance.
In my opinion, most bloggers are operating a sweepstakes when they host a giveaway. However, there are some bloggers who have expressed the opinion that requiring entrants to do certain things (e.g. mandatory requirements to “like” Facebook pages or “follow” Twitter accounts) might be perceived as something that is based in skill.
3. Communicate very clearly what the rules are of either your contest or sweepstakes.
RocketLawyer.com has created a very simple way to general rules for your sweepstakes. I believe you can also search their site for additional documents that you can generate. You can also contact a lawyer directly through their site.
In the future, I plan to use tools such as that site so that I can be in compliance much more easily. I hope this post was helpful to you so that you can do that as well!
This post is from the perspective of a blogger, not a lawyer and is not legal advice. You need to consult with a lawyer if you need legal advice.