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Liability of doing product reviews?

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stan welks
Liability of doing product reviews?
on Jan 7, 2010 at 3:22:45 am

I want to create a web show that I will use to do product reviews. What liability, if any is there for me if I review a product that does not make the product appear desireable, useful or of good quality? Can a company sue me and win for something like this?

Thanks.



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Mark Suszko
Re: Liability of doing product reviews?
on Jan 7, 2010 at 3:19:00 pm

Anybody can sue anybody for anything. Doesn't mean they will always WIN. But it does mean you would have to spend time and money to defend yourself, and that's often enough of a bother to get people to stop doing whatever the suing party is objecting to. So decide up front if you are able to defend yourself before asking for trouble.

Libel is printed, slander is spoken. It is said that the truth is always a defense, that if you can prove your statement was true, you win. The issue then becomes, in the case of doing a review, how subjective is the opinion you espouse, versus objective? Objective reviews, well, the manufacturer can't say it was slander to say his image sensor is 1/4 inch, if you can objectively measure that. If you say a manufacturer's image sensor is not good because it renders an inferior image, well, how do you define "inferior", quantitatively? Remember all the drama about how Panasonic was defining their image sensors a while back?

Look at a lot of magazines and web sites that review products,(this is true for any product, not just video stuff) and it is very rare they publish a super-bad review, I mean really bad, as in "they should burn this guy's house down for trying to sell such junk". What happens instead is that if they find something that's a stinker, they just don't bother talking about it, as there are plenty of good products out there they can talk about instead. The lack of coverage hurts the bad product's business as much as a formally bad published review, but nobody can sue you for NOT reviewing ther product.It may be fun to rag on bad products, but it is not prudent business.

Harder reviews to do are comparative "shoot-outs", say, between multiple cameras, projectors, renders from a codec/piece of software, etc. To stay objective enough to survive a challenge from an angry manufacturer, you best be using precision measuring and approved standards, and not just "eyeballing" it. That's why Consumer Reports has to spend so much money reviewing products.

Whatever you write or say in your "reviews", be sure you can back it up objectively, and make sure that your subjective opinions are clearly labeled as such.


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Doug Collins
Re: Liability of doing product reviews?
on Jan 7, 2010 at 4:11:08 pm

I recently read in a trade magazine (I think it was DV) where they were responding to a criticism that all of their reviews were positive. Their response? Why would we waste space on a bad product? They only printed reviews on products that they thought would be of use to their readers. They weren't saying that products they didn't review were all bad, just that they picked the best to review.



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Jeff Bonano
Re: Liability of doing product reviews?
on Jan 7, 2010 at 5:50:34 pm

If you don't have it already, O&E insurance may not be a bad idea if you start anything serious. If you do end up saying, "This Cammy 9000 model didn't hold up against the ElectroCam ZX8 when it came to sharpness and image quality." But it was only because you never knew that the Cammy 9000 had a small "better than ElectroCam ZX8 sharpness switch" located under the battery release switch, then you might run into some problems if the company that built it got upset over the whole ordeal.

Jeff Bonano
http://www.bonanoproductions.com

"I want to have a cool quote at the bottom of my signature, just like everyone else on the cow forum!" -Jeff Bonano


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: Liability of doing product reviews?
on Jan 7, 2010 at 7:30:29 pm

[Doug Collins] "I recently read in a trade magazine (I think it was DV) where they were responding to a criticism that all of their reviews were positive. Their response? Why would we waste space on a bad product? They only printed reviews on products that they thought would be of use to their readers. They weren't saying that products they didn't review were all bad, just that they picked the best to review."


We've been saying that for many years now. Back when we started doing it, some of the old guard from within the magazine industry criticized us for saying that we didn't bother with products that we didn't like. Many laughed and criticized us for our decidedly positive reviews. (When you go to working pros that have their own money invested in their tools and who judge things from the crucible of success or failure to function in the working world, you find out what tools are respected.)

Nice to know that as their page counts continue to drop, some magazines are getting more selective and don't waste trees on reviews such as they used to print. (My favorite was the one wherein the Mac guy with an old Pentium PC reviewed ULEAD MediaStudio 8. It would have been like me reviewing competitor FCP4 on a G3. The very best line in it went something like: "I cleared a few megabytes on the drive and installed it on the PC that I had sitting around. It didn't run very well and so I can only give it 3 stars." Or something like that. At the time, MSP8 did things that neither FCP, Vegas, Premiere or even Avid products could do.)

The team had worked their butts off on it and the way that the review was handled by a "neutral journalist" helped seal the demise of the product. When I read the review, I called Travis White, then product manager, and told him how sorry I was to see them get lynched like that. He and the team were heartsick.

Not long after, they would throw in the towel.

I'm glad to see some magazines finally waking up to the fact that reviews should be done by the people that actually buy the tools with their own money, and use the tools in their real world settings. The days of paid journalists writing reviews of complex workflow-based tools should have ended long before now.

Best regards,

Ron Lindeboom

Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
- Antoine de Saint Exupéry


First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
- Gandhi






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Ron Lindeboom
Re: a P.S. on this comment
on Jan 7, 2010 at 9:04:13 pm

If Creative COW Magazine ever becomes as some of the magazines in this industry have been for the last few years, please feel free to kick our hind-quarters just as intensely as I have done here.

We'd deserve it.

Best regards,

Ron Lindeboom

Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
- Antoine de Saint Exupéry


First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
- Gandhi






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Tim Kolb
Re: Liability of doing product reviews?
on Jan 7, 2010 at 7:59:42 pm

I think where many product reviews go astray are in situations similar to what Ron is referring to...the reviewer doesn't understand the product's purpose or technical requirements and reviews it based on its effectiveness in a role or configuration the manufacturer had not designed it for...

What I've typically done with product reviews is I ask the manufacturer what the intended role and benefit is of the product and what its tech requirements are before I start. I suspect those with the "consumer reports" system in their mind would call this collusion, but with a consumer product like a blender or a vacuum or a car, the purpose is pretty clear. With many of the products we use in the industry, different manufacturers approach a given challenge differently.

I've also returned any product that was simply not a useful device to the manufacturer with my recommendations for improving it and I've simply skipped reviewing it. Once a negative review is out there, even an honest effort by the manufacturer to correct issues that were honest oversights is an uphill battle. If given a chance, most manufacturers would prefer a chance to at least address the issues before they're ambushed in a magazine review...

The important thing is balance. Even with products in our industry that don't fit into my workflow, I want to give serious thought to what workfows would benefit...because I owe those people as honest an accounting of the device as I owe those who have workflows similar to mine.





TimK,
Director, Consultant
Kolb Productions,


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Mark Suszko
Re: Liability of doing product reviews?
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:43:48 pm

Tim, you reminded me just now of a "review" I read of Final Cut in a recent Macworld, Mac User, or simlar mac-oriented magazine. It was pertty clear the "reviewer" didn't actually know much about the app or how to use it, the bulk of the comments were more along the lines of how well the FCP interface mimiced the look of other native apple apps. I think the same reviewer was freaked out by a certain compositor program that used a (his words) "non-mac standard " ...grey backdrop in the graphic user interface." Or words to that effect. Clearly, the "reviweer" was the same guy reviewing final cut as well as itunes or some calendar app, game, or other widget app. About as qualified to talk about and rate NLE software as I am to rate underwater diving gear.

I actually kind of like well-crafted "advertorial" content in some of these magazines and sites, where an actual user shows and tells the story of how he used the product on a real-world task, what problems he came up against, as well as where the app was great. If the writers are good about not just going in as total shills, I find useful tidbits in these from time to time. Even if it is just to learn that my specific application is not the product's forte'


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grinner hester
Re: Liability of doing product reviews?
on Jan 8, 2010 at 6:12:30 pm

They can sue you but it doesn't mean they'll win anything. As long as your are objective and factual, you'll have no worries. Bash with an agenda and you are inviting a guy with a tie.




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