It’s Your Blog is a weekly series about taking ownership of your blog and making it the best it can be, because, well, It’s YOUR blog. It reflects you, represents you and is an extension of you. Join me Mondays for It’s Your Blog.
***UPDATE 07/19/2012 – In light of Facebook’s policy about promotions I believe someone can not enter to win a giveaway by only liking a Facebook page. However, liking a Facebook page can be a prerequisite to enter a contest. A second action is required for entry once a person likes a page. Essentially it would be a fan-only giveaway. I think liking a page can also be offered as an alternative form of entry. This is a gray area, and this is only my interpretation of the rules. You should do your own research, and if necessary seek legal counsel regarding this and all legal matters. ***
Do you know that giveaway you’re hosting on your blog may actually be an illegal lottery?
That’s right. There are federal and state laws that define and regulate lotteries and sweepstakes. Lotteries, unless they are state-run or are an authorized raffle, are illegal. If your giveaway meets the definition of a lottery you’re breaking the law.
To be a lottery three elements are required:
1. A Prize
2. A Chance to Win
One and two are pretty clear cut, but what is Consideration? Consideration is when the entity hosting or sponsoring a chance to win a prize requires some form of action from the entrants that benefits the entity or expends effort. It can be monetary or non-monetary, such as requiring everyone to sign up for a newsletter.
To be a sweepstakes the element of Consideration must be removed. This is why you so often see “No Purchase Necessary” listed in sweepstakes rules. The entity holding the sweepstakes is required to offer an alternate form of entry that is not Consideration.
What does and does not constitute Consideration is somewhat of a gray area. Reviewing laws and court cases involving corporations and stores running sweepstakes the definition of Consideration varies from state to state and judge to judge. Based on my research I believe requiring entrants to do any of the following qualifies as Consideration in the blogging arena:
1. Subscribe by RSS
2. Subscribe by Email
3. Follow you on Twitter
4. Subscribe to a newsletter
5. Follow you on Google Friend Connect
6. Like your page on Facebook
7. Send you cash
8. Babysit your kids for free whenever you ask
9. Jump through 20 hoops when you say go
Or everyone’s favorite:
10. Visit the sponsor’s website then leave a comment telling what your favorite product is.
You can’t require a visit to a place of business. A website is a place of business even if it’s not a physical one.
I’ve required a visit to the sponsor’s site many times not realizing I was doing anything wrong. I did know you weren’t supposed to require someone to sign up for something. Asking them to like your Facebook page is the same as signing up for something.
I started researching this topic after discussing it with my sister-in-law who also blogs. We see these actions required all the time for blog giveaway entries. We both agreed that, legal or not, it’s kind of annoying to be forced to sign up for anything. If that’s the case, we just don’t enter.
So now the question is does it matter if you hold an illegal lottery on your little, inconspicuous blog? I couldn’t find any instances of bloggers being charged with running illegal lotteries. And Illegal Lottery does sound kind of intriguing and Vegas and smokey backroom sexy. However, knowing that the FTC is watching us since they started regulating bloggers last year, it’s a chance I don ‘t want to take.
Also, if you want to be taken seriously as a blogger it behooves you to act professionally, no matter how big or small your readership. Running a sweepstakes the wrong way isn’t professional.
What can you do legally if you’re hosting a giveaway on your blog?
To make sure you’re running a sweepstakes and not an illegal lottery your one required entry should only be that people leave a comment with their name and way to contact them on your giveaway post. Then you can offer any of the other options as additional entries.
What if the sponsor of the giveaway prize balks when you refuse to require a visit to their site? I would explain that technically it’s illegal. If they still insist, I say a company that wants you do something illegal isn’t worth working with.
I’m not a gambling-woman, but if you want to take a chance, do it at the casino, not with your blog.
I want to stress that this is my interpretation of what I read on this subject. I encourage you to do your own research on the matter, and since it does vary by state check your local laws and regulations.
It’s your blog…what are you going to do with it?