Parenting Blogs May Be Held Liable for Product Reviews

Whatever the punishment, Padilla said she's already looked into what she might have to do to shield her from lawsuits in the future.

While Padilla does not get paid directly for reviewing products, she does get products for free and is also paid by advertisers on her site. Additionally, Padilla was recently chosen to be an "online brand advocate" for Energizer re-chargeable batteries, a gig for which she is paid.

"I'm definitely going to consult a lawyer," Padilla said. "I've had specific disclaimer notices on some posts and some disclosure statements, but I need a blanket one for the overall site.

"I just don't know if I'm protected enough."

How To Protect Yourself If You're A Mommy Blogger

Sam Bayard, the assistant director at the Citizen Media Law Project developed by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, said that while liability issues in connection to product reviews and blogging is fairly new territory, there are several things worried bloggers can do to try and shield themselves from lawsuits.

"Generally, the advantages of [setting up as] an LLC is that it makes you part of an organization," Bayard said of limited liability companies. "If someone else you work with says something defamatory, then it's the company, not you, that is held responsible."

Bayard said that "using common sense" may be a blogger's best defense as the FTC works to cement its policy on product reviews and endorsements.

"You shouldn't lie about your experiences with a product," he said. "If they're hiring you in a way or paying you to write the review, you may consider asking them for some background information on the product.

"Ask the company to tell you what a fair or accurate way to describe the product is to avoid any trouble."

Transparency about your blogger-company relationship, along with refraining from publishing extravagant claims, like saying that a product cured an ailment, are also good guidelines, Bayard said.

Linsey Krolik, a contributor to the Silicon Valley Mom's Blog and a technology and business lawyer, agreed that the best thing bloggers can do to protect themselves is remain as honest as possible when it comes to their product reviews.

"Some bloggers write in a way that makes it seem like they went out and bought the product and that it wasn't sent to them for a free review," Krolik said. "[Bloggers] should really have a disclosure policy or disclaimer that really reflects what they're doing.

"Mom's just need to be educated about the information they're really putting out there."

No matter what comes of FTC policy, BSM Media's Bailey predicts that companies eager to remain in touch with the mommy community may simply change to avoid the new rules.

"This sort of marketing isn't going to stop," she said. "These companies have realized how important it is to market to mothers; the foundation has been set."

Bailey estimates that the annual spending of mothers in the U.S. is $2.1 trillion and projects that number to rise to $3 trillion by 2012.

"I am certain they will find a different way to get to these moms," she said.

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