Online reviews have become increasingly important for businesses of all sizes. So it’s understandable that business owners suffer duress when their favorable reviews disappear – which sometimes happens as a result of joint ventures and partnerships among online review site companies.
What Can A Business Do When Its Favorable Online Reviews Vanish?
A few commentators quoted in the Wall Street Journal suggest that companies copy their reviews – as a screenshot – so the company can display the reviews on its own website in the event a good review suddenly disappears from the review site. From a legal perspective, that’s not a prudent course of action.
Check the terms of service for sites like Yelp and Amazon. Those terms typically prohibit you from reproducing the site’s content. For example, here’s a loose paraphrasing of the language in Yelp’s Terms of Service:
You own the reviews and other content you contribute to the Yelp site. You do grant Yelp a very broad non-exclusive license to use the content you contribute and allow others to use the review.
Yelp owns everything else including the site graphics, design, compilation and arrangement of reviews, and aggregate user review ratings.
You may not reproduce, distribute, publicly display or in any way exploit any of the content on the Yelp site (other than the content you have contributed and own) without Yelp’s permission.
That third point makes your re-posting a screen shot or unilaterally reproducing the text of a Yelp review on your site a violation of Yelp’s Terms of Service.
Option for Preserving Your Favorable Reviews
If you have contact information for the person who left the online review on the online review site, you can ask the person if you can reproduce the content of their review on your own website or blog. As mentioned above, even though the person who writes the review gives Yelp or Amazon a broad license to use the review, the review writer retains the copyright in the review.
As a result, the review writer can re-use that review as he/she pleases including giving you permission to re-print the review on your blog or website. Note that the review writer cannot grant you the right to use the design elements of the online review site so you should re-produce only the text of the review and not a screen shot.