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Internet Lawyer: Federal Trade Commission and New FTC Advertising Guidelines

By October 14, 2009November 3rd, 2010Internet Lawyer

internet lawyer wannabeWhy are some online business owners sabotaging their livelihoods by playing Internet lawyer analyzing the FTC without the education or experience to do it right?

Here’s a sample of some of the irrational behavior by Internet lawyer wannabes.

1. Some claim that nothing has changed, i.e. the stick-your-head-in-the-sand no-worries ostrich approach. The legal analysis of the FTC guidelines is nonexistent. It is all emotion-based “logic” with some good third party unverified rumor that an Internet marketer’s fourth cousin’s husband who is a divorce lawyer said not to worry about the Federal Trade Commission guidelines. Ridiculous.

2. Some try to sell a Federal Trade Commission “compliant” product by piking anonymous lawyer documents that any real lawyer would get disbarred for drafting. I was in stitches when I saw a certain copywriter piking forms supposedly prepared by a lawyer (no name provided) that wouldn’t have protected an online business in any way shape or form since at least 2005. Wonder how many people are dumb enough to believe it.

3. A variation of #2 is the auto-generated form from a website run by a non – Internet lawyer. When you look at the document makes you wonder if it was randomly generated text. My 13-year-old could draft something better.

4. Better than the above 3, but still not the right answer, is to try the brutal honesty technique. This method involves drafting a FTC compensation disclosure that looks like something a website owner should be talking about to a priest in confession rather than revealing online. The material connections disclosed at best are embarrassing, at worst legally inadequate, and somewhere in between are those where the entrepreneur has revealed so much that you can literally track down every site he owns if you want to identify his business model and clone it (i.e. a gift to the competition). Transparency has its place. But not to this extent.

Each of the above examples is fundamentally flawed. Don’t believe unreliable chat in forums and blog comments. Seek the advice of your Internet lawyer and know that the answer you get is the right one. Your online business is too important to guess what the Federal Trade Commission means with the new guidelines.

Before I get flamed, let me make it clear that there are a few marketers out there who “get it,” i.e. they have (presumably with the advice of legal counsel) figured out what the Federal Trade Commission wants. But that is the exception to the rule. When in doubt, get qualified legal advice from your Internet lawyer.

Mike Young, Esq.

Author Mike Young, Esq.

Mike Young has been practicing business and technology law since 1994 and is an angel investor in startups. He's been an entrepreneur since 1988. To get legal help from Attorney Young, click here now or call 214-546-4247 to schedule a phone consultation.

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