Sponsored links - are they legal?
It has been known for a long time that advertising is a trade lever. The more recognizable a given service or product is, the greater the chance that the seller will earn more money. Advertising can take many different forms, especially nowadays, when the vast majority of people use the Internet and various mobile applications without any problems. Are sponsored links a good and legal form of advertising?
What are sponsored links?
Sponsored links are a form of internet advertising that most often appears as text referring to another website (most often to a place where the reader can make a purchase). In this way, we also define the names of advertisements placed in the search engine, which appear above the so-called natural results. Sponsored links can be not only verbal, but also graphic or sound.
Sponsored links, to a greater or lesser extent, attract the reader's attention, although they are also quite often a source of dissatisfaction. On the one hand, they show us interesting offers tailored to our needs, on the other, however, they flood us with a huge amount of content and make browsing the websites of interest to us simply burdensome. So the question arises - are sponsored links legal? Ultimately, this form of advertising brings with it the above-mentioned inconveniences and very often uses the effects of tracking the internet life of a given user.
Sponsored links and the law
Sponsored links do not have their own unambiguous legal regulation, and all because at the time of the creation of the Act - Press Law, neither such a concept nor the Internet did exist in Poland. However, it must be assumed that currently some provisions of this legal act must be applied to the online form of advertising. As a rule, sponsored links are not prohibited by law, but they must meet several important conditions.
Pursuant to Art. 36 of the Press Law, the press (and thus also articles appearing on the Internet) may place paid advertisements and advertisements. They cannot be contrary to the law or principles of social coexistence. They must be clearly labeled as not to constitute editorial material. The publisher and editor have the right to refuse to post an advertisement and advertisement if their content or form is inconsistent with the program line or the nature of the publication. At the request of the authorities authorized to do so on the basis of separate regulations, the publisher or editor are obliged to disclose the names and addresses of entrepreneurs or natural persons who post paid advertisements or advertisements in matters of business activity.
The above provision clearly indicates that sponsored links may be used in online articles as long as they are of a paid nature. In other words, if the author or publisher of a given content intends to include a sponsored link in his text, he must do so against payment - the client is obliged to pay the appropriate amount for advertising his products or services. Remember, however, that the publisher or author may refuse to publish a sponsored link, especially if it violates the law or rules of social coexistence (e.g. directs you to a store with products prohibited for sale under Polish law or to services that are unethical, although permitted by law).
The judgment of the Supreme Court of 18 January 2017 (file reference number I CSK 351/06)
The publisher and editor-in-chief of the daily are not obliged to publish announcements and advertisements. When the refusal is discriminatory (e.g. on philosophical or political grounds), it should be justified by the premise that the publication of the advertisement or advertisement is inconsistent with the magazine's programming line or the nature of the publication.
Hidden sponsored links
The use of official, purchased sponsored links is therefore legal, as long as it meets the requirements of Art. 36 of the Press Law. However, there is an additional rule that is particularly important to know when it comes to the legal use of this type of advertising. According to the content of Art. 12 of the aforementioned Act, a journalist is obliged to:
exercise particular diligence and diligence in collecting and using press materials, in particular check the truthfulness of the information obtained or provide its source;
protect the personal rights and the interests of bona fide informants and others who trust him;
take care of the correctness of the language and avoid using profanity.
A journalist is not allowed to carry out hidden advertising activities involving obtaining material or personal benefits from a person or organizational unit interested in advertising.
The above regulation means that the hidden use of sponsored links is completely prohibited. In practice, the author or publisher of a specific text cannot "in passing" advertise the services and products of his colleague without any payment.
Michał and Adam were college friends. Michał runs his own website with news, and Adam has a company specializing in printing ordered materials. Adam came up with the idea to advertise his business, but he would not like to spend money on it. Michał's website is very popular and the two men were very friendly. Michał decided to help Adam and put a sponsored link in every second text he published, which sent him to his company's website (he did it without any payment). Such action may be considered a violation of the Press Law, and the sponsored links themselves will be illegal.
Michał and Adam were college friends. Michał runs his own website with news, and Adam has a company specializing in printing ordered materials. Adam came up with the idea to advertise his business with the help of his former colleague - but he doesn't want anything for free, so both men signed an appropriate contract and set a price for publishing a few sponsored links pointing to Adam's website. In this situation, the use of this form of advertising is acceptable, because it took place in a paid and fully open form (links are not smuggled "by accident" in any text on Michał's website).
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Free sponsored links and the law
So, will the free use of sponsored links always be a violation of the law? No, because the law allows this type of advertising, although on the condition that it cannot be equated with the so-called surreptitious. The text containing the free sponsored link must be of value to the reader and be related to the advertised offer or service - then there will be no violation of the Press Law.
Michał and Adam were college friends. Michał runs his own website with news, and Adam has a company specializing in printing ordered materials. Adam came up with the idea to advertise his business, but he would not like to spend money on it. Michał's website is very popular and the two men were very friendly. Michał decided to help Adam and put a sponsored link in every second text he published, which sent him to the website of Adam's company (he did it without any payment). This type of activity may be considered legal, provided that the texts containing sponsored links will relate to the advertised topic - in this case, to issues related to printing various types of materials. If it were otherwise, e.g. a text on health or legal advice would contain a hidden link to Adam's print shop, such link could be considered illegal.
Judgment of the District Court in Warsaw of February 23, 2006 (file reference number XVII Ama 118/04)
Action aimed at creating the impression among consumers that the advertising message is neutral information and thus concealing the promotional nature of the advertising campaign is an act of unfair competition and constitutes a practice violating the collective interests of consumers, as defined in Art. 23a of the Act on competition and consumer protection.
Sponsored links - summary
The use of sponsored links is legal, as long as it does not violate the relevant regulations contained in the Press Law. Legal use of this form of advertising will take place primarily when the contracting authority pays the author or publisher of the text for placing a sponsored link. The free use of such links is generally unlawful, unless they are thematically related to the text in which they appear and we cannot consider them as surreptitious advertising.