From the Armchair BEA Website: The Ethics Committee Meets Today Disclosure. Copyright and credit. Plagiarism. Succeeding without selling out. The path of ethical blogging is strewn with pebbles and potholes and thorny patches. We’re getting back into discussion mode in a big way today with the topic of “Ethics in Blogging.” What guidelines must we follow as bloggers–attribution, disclosure, honesty? Have you had an experience with plagiarism (victim or perpetrator?), and how did you deal with it? Do you have recommendations to new bloggers about how to ensure that credit is given to whom/where it’s due?
Ethics. That can be a sticky topic. The first for this blogger is copyright. I think it is important to note who has the copyright of the book: publisher / author / illustrator; and to put those where they can be readily seen. I put all of that under the review along with the websites, blogs, and social media. This way it is easy for anyone to check on copyrights and learn more about the publisher, author, and illustrator.
Often this means Googling everyone and checking at least 5 pages deep. Even then, sometimes nothing appears. Before you say this, I do ask for all of that when I agree to write a review, but one of two things happens. One, I get nothing back. Not one link, not one url. The other thing that happens is my fault. I do forget to ask. It is in the guidelines, but not everyone comes to me passes through the site first. So it can be a time-killer, but I think it is important.
For illustrations I have always made a pop-up appear when you place your mouse on the illustration. It gives the copyright information and the words “used with permission.” This was not enough. I had my site checked for overall potential and to let me know what could be better. The reviewer did not mention copyright–maybe she saw the pop-ups–but a commenter did. Since then, the “used with permission” is also in print at the bottom of the review.
This year I added the FTC Disclaimer. I had not done anything more than say “I received book courtesy of the publisher/author.” I read that, as of this year, this was no longer enough for the US government. The disclaimer I use is word for word what the FTC claims they want to see. Copy it if you need it.
Plagiarism I do not think I have ever had to worry about. If found it would immediately come off this site. To make sure I do not commit plagiarism, I make a point of not reading any reviews on a book until after my review is posted. It would be so easy to snag a paragraph here, a sentence there, and then paste a review together. If you are going to all the trouble of buying a domain name, building a site, accepting books, reading them, and whatever else it may take, why would you suddenly drop the ball and plagiarize? It is one thing to re-blog a great post, but certainly another to use someone else’s words and claim them as your own. I have yet to come across a blog that steals words, which is what plagiarism is: stealing.
The other important aspect of blogger/reviewer ethics is the review itself. I have noticed many blogs will not (or do not) post negative reviews. Why is this? Certainly a bad book or a book with bad points comes across their desk. Are they afraid of posting something negative? Why? A loss of readers, authors, book review offers? I knew when I started that on occasion, a review would have negative aspects to it. Sometimes there is a problem. Maybe the punctuation is poorly done or missing. Other times the illustrations do not match the concept of the book. Or the writing is simply poor. Is it wrong to make mention of those things — in a non-threatening or attacking way? I agree no one should ever make a personal attack on a writer, for any reason. I think doing so shines a bad light on the reviewer, not the author. And that is as it should be.
One question: Do you trust review sites that are only positive?
Okay, two questions: Are review sites (sans Kirkus, and newspaper and magazine book critics), that charge for a review legit? Are they ethical? Is charging the right thing to do? (three questions)
I would love to charge for a review. I put in a good amount of time reading, writing, and posting. I bet most reviewers do the same. Yet there is a part of me that is wary of sites that charge. Once you accept a fee for a review that author/publisher/PR firm becomes a customer and you now owe them something in return. What the author etc. want is a positive review. Can you write a negative review if someone has paid for the review? At least subconsciously the reviewer must know and want to please. Is it possible to accept a fee and then write as if one had not
I have been to a few sites this past month researching paid reviews. A couple are so positive there is a sugar-coating over the home page. I’ve seen rates from $5 to $70 for a picture book review. The prices went up after that. One site states a negative review will not be written, but you do not get a full refund. Another, or two, simply post glowing reviews that often are similar. Is there a positive review template floating around the blogosphere?
This is one subject that I tend to be cynical about. I know I could still write a negative review but do not know if I would feel right doing so. I feel awful anytime I say something negative and I am not getting paid. My heart would not be in it, if I had been paid. Once someone pays me a relationship is established. An expectation, implied or not will form. I pet sit and people expect certain things for their money. Why would writing a paid review be any different?
What do you think?
- Armchair BEA – Non-fiction / Ethics (unconventionalbookviews.com)
- Armchair BEA! Day 4: Ethics & Non-Fiction (sarahsaysread.com)
- Armchair BEA Day #4 – Ethics and Nonfiction (bookswithoutanypictures.wordpress.com)
- Armchair BEA – Becoming a Better Blogger / Genre Fiction (unconventionalbookviews.com)
- Armchair BEA, Day 2 – Blogger Development (kid-lit-reviews.com)
- Armchair BEA Day 2- Blogger Development and Genre Fiction (janysbookblog.wordpress.com)
- Armchair BEA! Day 2: Blogger Development, and Genre Fiction (sarahsaysread.com)