Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Can We Use Amazon Reviews in Our Product Ad?

what a bank employee once told us ...
Dear Rich: Our software product has gotten great reviews on Amazon. If we were to include any of these reviews in the copy on the software product page, is there anything I should be aware of or get permission for? We know how great it is to get positive online reviews for your stuff. But unfortunately, you must obtain permission before using someone's name or persona to endorse your product. If you don't, you are likely violating that person's right of publicity. (Although there are some gray areas regarding the right of publicity, it's generally acknowledged that using someone's name without permission in an advertisement is a no-no.) In addition, if you copy and post a lengthy review, it's possible (though unlikely) that a reviewer could claim copyright infringement.
How does Amazon get away with it? Amazon requires that users assent to its Conditions of Use in order to post a review. Those conditions state: "You grant Amazon and sublicensees the right to use the name that you submit in connection with such content, if they choose."
What can you do? The safest route would be to use short excerpts from the reviews -- say 20 words or less -- and to avoid identifying the reviewer. Definitely don't use last names or screen handles, avatars, etc. First names and initials are probably fine unless they're so unique as to identify the person.
But what about what Amazon does on Facebook? There's a whole different set of rules when Amazon pays Facebook to use your name and endorsement on products.

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