by Judy Parker, winemakerslawyer.com

Before you jump on twitter or Facebook to talk about your favorite wines, make sure you’re compliant with the TTB’s restrictions on social media. Federal law prohibits advertisements of wine, spirits, and beer from deceiving consumers by using misleading statements (whether false or not) and requires that advertising contain adequate information to the identity and quality of what is being advertised. The TTB is tasked with creating the regulations for alcoholic advertisements. (You can read them yourself at 27 CFR parts 4, 5, and 7.)

Those regulations require mandatory statements to be (1) conspicuous and readily legible; (2) clearly a part of the advertisement; and (3) readily apparent to the reader.

The TTB, which had regularly reviewed advertising in print media, recently produced rules related to social media — media which tends to be far more interactive and timely. This includes Facebook fan pages, those pages which consumers “like” or follow.

In including those social media sites under the traditional media umbrella, the TTB now expressly subjects those pages — the entire fan page, including the home page and all sub pages — to the “mandatory statement” rules. This means that the mandatory statements on fan pages may not be hidden or buried on a hidden URL. Videos about your beverages on video sharing sites must also include mandatory statements, on the specific channel page or — if you don’t have such a page — on the video itself.

If a winery maintains a blog about itself and discusses its products, events, and whatnot, it too is considered to be advertising under the TTB’s regulations. Blogs, therefore, must likewise contain mandatory statements.

Microblogs, on the other hand, are a bit different. Microblogs such as twitter or Tumblr are by their very nature sentence fragments and symbols to promote thoughts or services. The TTB recognizes that the micrologs are social media and therefore subject to the regulations discussed here, but need not be contained in every microblog post. Instead, the mandatory statements must appear somewhere that is conspicuous and readily legible — for example, on the microblog profile page. Although a single microblog post need not contain mandatory statements, it must nonetheless refrain from prohibited practices. (No “My beer cures cancer” tweets!)

If you are stumped whether your nontraditional social media falls under these regulations, call me, the Winemakers’ Lawyer, for some traditional legal advice.

– Judy