Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hosting a Legal Giveaway

As a book blogger, you've probably hosted giveaways or thought about hosting giveaways. But did you think of the legal aspects of your giveaways? Probably not.

I'm not a lawyer, and I'm not going to delve deeply into the legal requirements of all sorts of giveaways. If you want to know more, you should look into both federal and state laws on your own. An excellent article to start off with can be found at Social Media Examiner. Laws governing giveaways are influenced by the prize amount, age of entrants, where they live, and so on.

The good news is I've never heard of any blogger being arrested or fined for ignoring some or all of the FTC laws governing giveaways, so there's no need to start panicking. Behind all the legalese there are basically two things you need to take into consideration before hosting a giveaway:

1. Information

The collection of people's personal information is a Big Deal, legally speaking. When you run a giveaway (which is probably actually a sweepstakes), you collect information about people such as their names, e-mails, addresses; and then you might share that information with other people like a publisher or author. You know how companies send you privacy notices about how they're using your information and you take one look at them and throw them away? They're not doing that just to be nice. Whenever you collect information from people YOU ARE LEGALLY REQUIRED TO:

  • Tell them what information you're collecting.
  • What you're going to do with it.
  • Who you'll share it with, if anyone.
  • Where the information will be kept and how/when you'll dispose of it.
  • How people can request their information be removed from whatever database you're keeping it in.

You need to compose a statement that addresses this and post it on both your blog policies page AND on every individual giveaway you host. Once it is posted, you're legally required to follow these policies (the good news is you can change the policies at any time, just make sure you're diligent about following and updating them).

ALSO when it comes to collecting information about minors online, you need to consider the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act or COPPA, especially if you have a blog that specializes in children's or middle-grade books. Basically, you need to have a parent or guardian's permission to collect any information about anyone 13 years old or younger. If you don't have a blog with an audience in this age group, it might be a good idea to say no one under the age of 13 can enter the giveaway.

2. "No purchase necessary"

You've probably heard the phrase "no purchase necessary" on a lot of giveaway announcements. There's a reason for that—companies cannot require people to spend money in order to enter a "sweepstakes." If they do, the sweepstakes technically becomes a lottery and there are whole host of laws specific to lotteries that you likely don't want to deal with.

Even if you're not requiring people to buy anything to enter your giveaway, remember that time and promotion can be interpreted as equating to money. So if you have a giveaway where the only entry options are to follow you on twitter, tweet about the giveaway, or like your FaceBook page, it could be argued that you're violating the "no purchase necessary" rule, as you're still receiving something in exchange for an entry.

Fortunately, this is easy to fix: simply add an option where a person can enter without tweet/liking/subscribing/etc. You can include the other entry options as long as you have ONE that allows a person to enter without doing anything.

Further Reading:
Social Media Examiner: Social Media Promotions and the Law, What You Need to Know
Saving for Someday: Is Your Giveaway Legal?
Professional Blogging for Dummies (this is where I got most of my information)


  1. Thank you! This is super helpful. I'm still new-ish and getting to the point where I would feel comfortable hosting a giveaway. For those of you who have, do your books usually come from the publisher? Do they ask you to host the giveaway or are you asking them for the books? This is one area where I'm still a little fuzzy.

    1. Most of the time, the books come from the publisher. They either offer them directly or through a blog tour. Sometimes they send you the book to mail directly, but most of the time you'll have to send them the addy of the winner.

    2. Shannon @ River city Reading ... I have hosted giveaways in a multitude of ways, including via relationships with authors or publishers (usually initiated on their end). I also have giveaways that come out of my own collection/pocket or I also have a "donor" that I host the giveaways for. (My "donor" is actually a retired book blogger that is no longer around, but reviews books elsewhere and wants to give ARCs away. She mails everything out herself and I just serve as the messenger.)

  2. Great post and as Shannon said, super helpful.

  3. This is really interesting information Tasha! Thank you so much for sharing. It looks like I may need to make some additional permanent notes for my giveaways, just in case!

  4. Being new to blogging, and never having done a giveaway, I have a question: can I purchase a book (from Amazon or another retailer), and give it away on my blog? As such, it would be a purchased book from my own collection and be considered a gift, right?


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