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Should We Forgive GoDaddy?

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SOPA has sure made a mess of things, hasn’t it?

No company knows that better than GoDaddy. When the list of SOPA supporters came out, Internet users everywhere cried to users to boycott GoDaddy, moving hosting and domain name registration to other companies. A lot of people did. Last Friday, when this story was getting top billing on tech sites everywhere, over 21,000 domain names were moved to other companies. That hasn’t stopped people from registering thousands of new domain names.

Bob Parsons, CEO of GoDaddy - worthy of our forgiveness?

The net loss for the day was only 1,020, which is pretty insignificant considering that they manage over 50 million domain names.

Yesterday, the specific day when people were encouraged to move their domain names, the boycott fizzled completely. The company actually had a net gain of over 20,000 names, though they have admitted a spike in transfer rates.

The boycott has made a difference. A few days ago, GoDaddy released a statement saying that they no longer support SOPA. Then, more recently, the company released a statement saying that not only were they no longer supporting the bill, but they now directly oppose it. The lack of support for transferring names yesterday can be attributed to both GoDaddy’s changing stance on the issue and Reddit’s new focus on actual politicians. (Reddit is where the call for a GoDaddy boycott originally started.)

So with all of that said, is it time for the blogging community to forgive GoDaddy?

This blogger says yes.

I personally have domain names registered and hosted with two different companies – GoDaddy and HostGator. I was poised to switch everything to HostGator, but when GoDaddy changed their position and decided to oppose SOPA, I decided to keep my account. For now.

Finish Your Vegetables, GoDaddy!

In my opinion, it sends the wrong message to boycott the company after they’ve given in to consumer demands. I’ve even seen people making fun of GoDaddy for changing their position so quickly to appease customers. Um…isn’t that what we wanted? What, did you want a more difficult fight?

The whole point of a boycott is to change what a company is doing. So if the company makes the changes you want and you still boycott, it sends the message that it doesn’t matter whether a company listens to its consumers or not. Next time, they won’t bother changing because it won’t make a difference anyway.

A good analogy is a kid who won’t finish his dinner. You tell the child, “Because you haven’t eaten the rest of your peas, you aren’t getting any cake for dessert.” If the child clears his plate, you have to give him the cake. That was the implied deal. You can’t really say, “Well, originally, you decided not to finish your dinner, so you still aren’t getting cake, even though you changed your mind.” Well, I mean, you can, but good luck getting the kid to eat his dinner tomorrow. You’ve conditioned him to think that it doesn’t matter what he does; you’re going to withhold cake if you feel like it.

Why Are You Anti-GoDaddy?

There’s no shortage of reasons to dislike GoDaddy. If you decide to leave because of the dead animal debacle, do it. If you object to their racy ads, transfer your names. If you believe the company can’t be trusted to make good decisions in the future, close your account. These are all good reasons to leave – for some people.

But if your reason for leaving was to boycott the company’s support of SOPA, I think you should stay – or even consider moving back if you already transferred. The boycott worked, and we want to send the right message – that if we boycott you and you change, we’ll stop boycotting. It’s time to forgive and move on to find other ways to make a different in the fight against SOPA. A lot of other companies and politicians still support the bill, and we need to at least try to change their minds.

A final warning to GoDaddy, though: the Internet might forgive, but we never forget. You’re on probation.

Picture via Parsonsrep at Wikimedia Commons.

FTC Decides to Close Its Investigation on Hyundai and Their Blogger Outreach Campaign

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During Super Bowl XLV, Hyundai hired a PR firm to handle a blogger outreach campaign to build buzz around their Super Bowl commercial. The bloggers were asked to write about the commercial, featuring the Hyundai Elantra, and were given a gift certificate in exchange.

But there was a problem with the campaign. There was no disclosure that the bloggers received something in exchange for the promotion, as the FTC requires.

Needless to say, the FTC launched an investigation to find out if the bloggers had indeed been told to disclose to their readers that they had received a gift certificate, in exchange for posting about the Hyundai commercial. The end result? The FTC recently announced they have closed the investigation and gave their reasons why in this letter.

Here are two of the main reasons why the investigation was closed:

  • “First, it appears that Hyundai did not know in advanceabout use of these incentives, that a relatively small number of bloggers received the gift certificates, and that some of them did, in fact, disclose this information.”
  • “Second, the actions with which we are most concerned here were taken not by Hyundai  employees, but by an individual who was working for a media firm hired to conduct the blogging campaign.”

Although no action was taken, Lesley Fair of the FTC’s division of advertising practices, wrote in a blog post that the closing letter from the FTC is worth a read if your company uses social media in its marketing.

He also gave these guidelines for companies needing more guidance when it comes to complying with the FTC policies:

  • Mandate a disclosure policy that complies with the law
  • Make sure people who work for you or with you know what the rules are
  • Monitor what they’re doing on your behalf

The FTC may have closed the investigation and Hyundai escaped something that could have been real messy for the company, but this definitely teaches all of us a lesson – the FTC is paying attention to disclosure policies, so make sure you have one and it’s stated clearly.

Do you feel bloggers are doing a good job disclosing what they are receiving in return for working with a company? And, for those you who regularly work with companies and PR firms on outreach campaigns, do they clearly state a disclosure policy is required?

Corporate Supporters Back Away from SOPA

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After the official list of SOPA supporters was published and a post on Reddit about GoDaddy supporting SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) created a PR nightmare for the company, it looks like the list of corporate supporters is getting shorter.

For those of you not familiar with the SOPA and GoDaddy debacle, here’s the short story.

After GoDaddy showed up on the list of SOPA supporters, a single post on Reddit asking people to move their domain names elsewhere, caused GoDaddy to withdraw their support. On December 23rd, GoDaddy made the announcement:

“Go Daddy is no longer supporting SOPA, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” currently working its way through U.S. Congress.

“Fighting online piracy is of the utmost importance, which is why Go Daddy has been working to help craft revisions to this legislation – but we can clearly do better,” Warren Adelman, Go Daddy’s newly appointed CEO, said. “It’s very important that all Internet stakeholders work together on this. Getting it right is worth the wait. Go Daddy will support it when and if the Internet community supports it.”

You can read their entire letter here.

GoDaddy isn’t the only company speaking out and asking to be removed from the SOPA list of supporters. Law firms and companies who were listed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as SOPA supporters are not only asking to be taken off the list, but are also saying they have no idea how they ended up on it in the first place.

One company’s message on Twitter was “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet!”

Does it look like to you SOPA and its “corporate supporters” is crumbling before our very eyes?

A Huge List of Companies Supporting SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act)

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Allison recently wrote about SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and why it scares her. For those of you not familiar with SOPA, it’s a new legislation in the United States that is seeking to punish people for posting pirated content.

You can read Alli’s entire post on SOPA and how there are loopholes, that in her opinion will get abused, here. Some are calling this the worst thing to ever happen to the internet.

Congress published a list of companies who are supporting SOPA, among the list are Walt Disney, Marvel, CBS, ESPN, Viacom and VISA…just to name a few.

Here is the entire list of companies supporting SOPA. Gizmodo has published this list, along with ways to contact each company, if you so desire to tell them how you feel about this new legislation.

SOPA Supporters

How do you feel about SOPA? Is it dangerous and ridiculous or necessary?

Oregon Blogger’s Fate Could Impact Bloggers Everywhere, Sued for $2.5 Million

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Crystal L. Cox

It’s been up for discussion on many occasions, whether a blogger can, and should be, considered a journalist. Many times, bloggers post opinion pieces with information and “facts” they gathered from different places, and never really think twice about it.

After you read this story about an Oregon blogger who lost her case in court and is being sued for $2.5 million, it might cause you to think a little more about what you post on your blog. Or, this story just might make you angry that this judge drew a clear line between journalists and bloggers.

Crystal L. Cox, an Oregon based blogger, writes several law-centric blogs. She wrote posts on the Obsidian Finance Group firm, and its co-founder Kevin Padrick, stating the company and Padrick were guilty of bankruptcy fraud. They eventually took her to court and won.

The judge ruled in favor of the firm, saying this single post was grounds for defamation because it stated her opinion as factual. Cox claims she received the information from a very reliable inside source, who she was not willing to give up, and therefore is protected by Oregon’s shield law. The judge said, “not so fast” and offered up his opinion on the difference between a “journalist” and a “blogger”.

Here is U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez’s statement obtained from Seattle Weekly:

. . . although defendant is a self-proclaimed “investigative blogger” and defines herself as “media,” the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law

Cox told Seattle Weekly this ruling could impact bloggers everywhere.

I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on this story. Here are some questions up for discussion:

  • Should Cox be protected by the Oregon Shield law since she claims she received her information from an inside source?
  • Do you agree with the judge’s ruling on the difference between a blogger and journalist and the fact that Cox isn’t affiliated with any media companies?
  • Do you think bloggers need to be more careful in regards to what they post?
  • Do you believe this single case will impact bloggers and anyone who writes on the internet?

Image Source: http://www.crystalcox.com/

Why SOPA Scares the You-Know-What Out of Me

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For the past few weeks, and especially over the past few days, everyone is talking about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), new legislation in the United States that seeks to punish people for posting pirated content. I didn’t pay much attention at first. The name sounds nice, after all. I don’t support illegal downloading, and I certainly don’t want people illegally distributing the content I create. So my first impression, when I started seeing people tweeting about it, was that people were mad that they’d have to pay for things they should have been buying in the first place.

Today, I had coffee with Thursday Bram. She was in town (I live in the Washington, D.C. area) to hear Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, speak to the Young Entrepreneur Council – and he was in town first and foremost to speak out against SOPA. So I thought I better come home and actually read about the legislation, to see what the big deal was.

Holy cannoli. I almost had to change my pants. This video does a good job, in my opinion, of outlining the legislation and its problems:

[vimeo]http://www.vimeo.com/31100268[/vimeo]

Let me preface what I’m about to say with this: I’m not a lawyer and I normally don’t get super political. So if you believe I’m thinking about this the wrong way or don’t correctly understand what I’ve read about SOPA, please leave a comment telling me that. This is just how I’m interpreting things, and it is giving me an upset stomach, so I’d love to be wrong.

If passed, this legislation will scare people from sharing any link or user-created content at all because if the government (and those controlling the government though lobbyists) doesn’t like it, you can be shut down. I’m reminded of futuristic dystopian works of fiction like V for Vendetta and 1984, where government controls the message at all times. That might sound a little dramatic, but those type of imagined futures don’t happen overnight. They happen bit by bit, starting with legislation that seems like it’s meant to protect us (or so we’re led to believe). Legislation like SOPA.

Basically, what SOPA does is create a way for content creators (anyone from a large movie studio to an individual artist) to fight piracy, which is a good thing. But it also creates tons of loopholes for content creators to shut down anything they don’t like or understand that they feel infringes on their rights. We’re trusting people – people who have a lot of money at stake – to ignore these loopholes. It’s like putting a big chocolate chip cookie and some carrots in front of a three-year-old and saying, “Honey, we trust you to only eat the carrots while I’m in the other room.” Yeah right.

The loopholes in this legislation will get abused. That’s a guarantee. They’re too tempting.

And not just that, but frankly, a lot of the people in charge of the government and even businesses don’t really use the Internet. They have interns who answer their emails and support staff who update their websites. We’re putting our faith to make good decisions about our industry in the hands of people who have no clue what this industry is about. That’s terrifying.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is supposed to protect us. Its “safe harbor” clauses give websites the chance to fix problems before being sued. Websites who make an effort to discourage copyright shenanigans don’t have to worry about getting being blacklisted. Essentially, if you try to do the right thing, you’re given the benefit of the doubt.

SOPA doesn’t give you a second chance. I’m not advocating that a piracy site should get one, but I am advocating that a social sharing site, including forums, blogs that allow comments, social media networks, bookmarking sites, and so forth be given the chance to rectify any infringement problems, rather than just being shut down because a reader/user/member/etc. posted something that a content creator doesn’t like. This is the kind of government blacklisting we’re seeing in places like China. That scares me.

Worse yet is the vast amount of gray area when it comes to infringement. SOPA will squash creativity like song mash-ups, spoofs, covers by amateurs, and more. Even stuff that is technically allowed by law could be at risk because people will be scared. Today, they’re taking down videos of someone covering a pop song. Tomorrow, they’re showing up at the small-town bar we’re you’re singing karaoke. Like I said, complete government control doesn’t happen overnight. Baby steps lead us down that path, a path where free speech is no longer allowed as we know it.

And to take things a step further…what about opinion pieces like I’m writing right now? It’s a leap, but if SOPA passes, could someone in the future read this post and categorize it as content that promotes piracy just because I disagree with an anti-piracy bill? Okay, yes, that’s quite a leap, but when writing this, I’ve been very careful to say multiple times that I don’t support piracy, just in case. Baby steps.

Let me not forget to mention how ridiculous the penalties are for someone suspected of promoting piracy in any way. A content creator can completely cut you off financially in as little as five days, which is not enough time for most people to defend themselves. You could even go to jail.

That’s right – jail. Up to five years. Because I posted a link to a YouTube video that uses background music without permission. Because that seems much more reasonable than just asking that the video be removed. Cue the black hood and handcuffs as I’m being dragged away by men in suits and sunglasses.

He's probably not a *real* pirate, right? Let's send him to jail just in case.

SOPA means that anyone who owns a website or creates any kind of online profile has to walk on eggshells. Part of the problem is that this legislation is so open to interpretation, that even if you aren’t doing anything wrong but just look like you might be doing something wrong, you could be at risk. Guilty until proven innocent is not okay in my book. There are a lot of innocent people out there who could get unjustly accused.

This legislation could even affect what you send via email, from what I understand. That requires a heck of a lot more email monitoring than I’m comfortable with. I’m not naive enough to think that something I send via email has no chance of getting read by anyone else, but I am un-paranoid-y (that’s a technical term because I can’t think of a better word) enough to think that right now, people don’t have a reason to care about my emails, so they probably don’t get read by “the man.” Under SOPA, email providers will have to care, and if you’re sending something that looks like an illegal link, the black hoods will come out again.

Up until now, I’ve been pretty outlandish with some of my what-ifs, but something that is very real and that absolutely will happen if SOPA is passed is that really cool start-ups won’t have a chance to succeed simply because they don’t have the manpower to fight lawsuits or police what users are creating to the high standards that will be legally required. Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, GOOGLE for crying out loud – these are all companies that couldn’t have happened if SOPA had passed before they were founded. People out there are wondrously creative and smart, and we’re going to miss out on a lot of really cool stuff because it will be too hard for these companies to gain any traction under SOPA. Take a moment to think of the crazy number of jobs that won’t be created. Sounds really awesome for the economy, right? Even some big-name companies might call it quits if it because too cost-intensive to comply.

A world without Twitter? I think I have to change my pants again.

And you know what? SOPA has all these bad effects WITHOUT STOPPING PIRATES. Even if every single pirate safe haven online gets shut down, people will find a way to get what they want if they don’t have the money for it. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to stop piracy, plagiarism, and general mean-spirited mischief online. It just means what we need to do so in a way that doesn’t blanket-punish all the good kids in class because one student was talking during nap time.

Get out there and write to your congressmen and women. Blog about it. Support companies speaking out against it. Educate people who are, like me, in need of education about the topic. Let it be known, even if it passes, that you don’t agree.

My name is Allison Boyer, and while I don’t speak for the rest of the staff here at BlogWorld, personally, I don’t agree.

I think I’ve ranted long enough, so now I want to hear your opinions. Has SOPA made you soil your undergarments? What are you doing about it? What do you think would be a better answer to online piracy?

The Recipe for a Successful Blogging Business: How to Minimize Your Liability

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… by Nellie Akalp

You’ve logged long hours behind the glare of your laptop display, battled writer’s block valiantly, and tried your best not to get rattled by the occasional negative comment or flame war. Along the way, you’ve produced some great content and have joined the growing ranks of more than 175 million blogs worldwide.

While blogging has become a serious industry, most bloggers don’t necessarily consider the business aspects of their blog when they’re just starting out. But soon enough what may have started as a casual interest turns into an extra source of income, or even a full-time business.

If you’re a self-employed or self-starting blogger, you’ve got to be aware of a few things as you navigate the legal and business aspects of your blog.

Liability issues

Yes, I know, it’s hard to imagine that sitting behind a computer can put you at any real risk of a lawsuit. And certainly managing a blog is inherently less risky than managing a sky diving business. However, there are some liability issues to consider: What it you accidentally plagiarize another writer’s work? What if you write about a mobile phone prototype left behind at a bar? What if you’re fined by the FTC or named in a class-action lawsuit for positively reviewing a defective product?

If you’re involved in blogging or social media, you’re most likely aware that back in 2009 the FTC revised their guidelines to bring social media and Internet advertisers into the mix. At the heart of this revision was a concern that recognizing ads in social media was becoming increasingly harder. And since then, we’ve seen a handful of controversies surrounding celebrities not properly disclosing brand relationships.

Here’s my recipe (just three simple steps) to minimize your liability as a blogger:

Step 1: 1 cup of disclosure

You need to disclose any ‘material relationship’ with an advertiser or brand. A material relationship can be anything and everything from receiving cash, free samples, a free product, or free trip in exchange for a product review or blog post. Let’s say that Jimmy is an online gaming expert who drinks lots of energy drinks and blogs about his gaming experiences. A game manufacturer sends him a free game and asks him to write about it. Accepting this free game creates a material relationship that must be disclosed or Jimmy can face substantial fines.

If you’re not sure what constitutes a material relationship, err on the side of caution. After all, do you think Jimmy’s readers will be upset to learn he received a free game (particularly, if he’s known for enthusiastic, albeit dead honest, reviews)? Beyond FTC penalties, I believe that disclosure is good practice, as it maintains the relationship of trust that you’ve built with your audience.

Step 2: Sprinkle reviews with results that consumers can ‘generally expect’

It’s no longer acceptable for a blog review to make outrageous claims like “I made $30,000 last month from home selling on eBay; I lost 50 pounds in 2 months.” This is true even if you put a disclaimer ‘results not typical’ in fine print. Like advertisers, bloggers are required to disclose results that “consumers can generally expect.” If you don’t comply, you could receive substantial fines or a consumer protection lawsuit. In most cases, the company itself will be the defendant, but as a participating blogger, you could also be named in the lawsuit.

Step 3: Form an LLC or corporation

Most bloggers aren’t really thinking about business structure when they first start out, meaning that most begin as sole proprietors. While you may think you should incorporate in order to lower your taxes, the main benefit of incorporating or forming an LLC has to do with separating your personal and business finances and minimizing your personal liability.

With an LLC or Corporation (S Corp or C Corp), your personal assets, such as property or a savings account, are shielded from any judgment if your blog happens to be sued or fined. On the other hand, if you’re sued as a sole proprietor, you’ll be sued personally. This means that your personal assets are all at risk. And what you initially started as an interesting side project could end up wiping out your down payment savings.

Also be aware that creditor judgments can actually last up to 22 years. This means that if you’re sued today, your personal assets will still be vulnerable for up to 22 years.

This may sound like scare tactics. And I’m not a fan of scare tactics. But I am a fan of education. Most likely, you’ll never run into any sort of problems with your blog except for the occasional troll. But following this simple recipe of shielding your personal assets through an LLC or Corp, using common sense when choosing your advertising/marketing partners, and always erring on the side of transparency will help make for the sweet success of your blog and business.

Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur, small business advocate and mother of four. As CEO of CorpNet.com, an online legal document filing service, Nellie helps small business owners form an LLC or incorporate a business in order to start and protect their new business ventures the right way. To access free guides, advice and informative videos on small business legal topics, visit here: http://bit.ly/pChZbV

At next week’s BlogWorld in LA; Nellie will be exhibiting information for attendees to learn the benefits of forming that business structure to a new venture and why it’s an integral part of the success of a business. She will be giving away one iPad2 on November 4th and one on November 5th to BWE attendees. People just have to stop by the booth and look for the ‘Word of the Day’. Once they find it; they need to Tweet to @CorpNet or comment on the CorpNet Facebook page with that word to be entered to win. If they tweet and comment; they are entered twice.

Missouri Teachers Say Social Media Law Interferes with Education

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Teachers, students and social media seem to be all the talk these days when it comes to education and policies that need to be put in place.

First, you have the teacher who called her class “lazy whiners” on her blog – which caused all kinds of problems for her and the school district. Then you have the teachers who see social media as a way to engage with and reach their students.

It seems like a hard topic for school boards to tackle.

In Missouri, a law was passed which made Facebook friendships with students and teachers (as well as other social networking sites) illegal. Teachers complained the bill interfered with education and was unconstitutional.

According to the Kansas City Star, Gov. Jay Nixon signed another bill on Friday that replaces the old law. This new bill gives all Missouri school districts until March 2012 to create their own social networking policies.

What are your thoughts on teachers, students and social media? Does it cross a line when educators and their students are “friends” on these sites or does it give teachers another way to reach out to their students?

Amazon Sales Up, Plus CFO Comments on Sales Tax Issue

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Amazon posted its financial results for the second quarter in 2011 today. The big news? Their sales reached $9.91 billion, which is a 51% increase from last year’s same period. I am sure this news makes some Californians cringe after the announcement by Amazon that they were pulling the plug on their affiliates.

The report did include a few details about the Kindle, saying that the sales were up compared to the first quarter 2011.

It was also revealed in a conference call today, that Amazon has built 15 fulfillment centers in 2011 and they plan to build a few more by the end of this year. That brings the total to 65 fulfillment centers across the globe. These centers enable the company, as well as third-party merchants to store inventory and fulfill orders.

Amazon is obviously growing and investing in their business. If only they could work out something with the affiliates they have dropped because of the Internet sales tax law. During the conference call, CFO Tom Szkutak was asked about the tax law issue.

His response was, “You know, I think in terms of the sales tax issue in total, the way you should think about it is we support a federal simplified approach as we have for more than 10 years. We think in the U.S. that the federal solution’s right way to solve this. Also keep in mind as you think about our global business, we already collect sales tax equivalent in … approximately half of our business across the world and, again, we think the right solution to the U.S. is a federal solution.”

When asked if there were any plans to cut more affiliates, he said he couldn’t really comment.

For those of you who were cut from the Amazon affiliate program in June, what steps have you taken to work towards regaining that income?

Overstock.com Redirects Ad Dollars to California Customers

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As Nikki mentioned yesterday, Overstock.com joined Amazon in cutting ties with its California affiliates as a result of the new Internet state tax law. The impact of this for some bloggers is quite large as they wave goodbye to a large portion of their earnings.

Overstock  announced today they are redirecting their ad dollars to California customers by offering them free Club O accounts ($20 value) pre-loaded with $10 in Club O Reward dollars.

Here’s the statement released by Overstocks’s CEO:

“California’s new law that makes out-of-state retailers collect sales tax simply for having business relations with marketing affiliates in those states is unconstitutional,” said O.co CEO Patrick Byrne. “So we have severed relationships with all of our affiliates in California.  Like we’ve done in other states, we have taken the money we would normally pay those affiliates, and are using it to reward our best customers in those states. Any customer in California that has spent more than $300 in the past year will receive a free Club O membership (normally priced at $20) and their membership account will come preloaded with an additional $10 balance. Those qualifying that are already Club O members will also have $10 added to their existing Club O Rewards account and their membership extended for one year.”

Overstock has also cut ties with its affiliates in Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, New York and Rhode Island.

What do you think Overstock is trying to say by offering this deal to some of its California residents?

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