Can I Run an International Giveaway on YouTube? (YouTuber Law #52)

Today we’re going to discuss whether your planned international giveaway or sweepstakes on YouTube are legal. In most cases, unless you’ve hired multiple attorneys across the world, the answer will be no. Your international giveaway will not be legal. At least across most countries around the world. 

I know. You've seen many YouTubers open their giveaways to any viewers. Some explicitly say that its open internationally. Others just don't mention any geographical restrictions. ... and nothing ever happens. You don't hear about any repercussions from running these international giveaways on YouTube. 

True. Enforcement tends to be slow in this part of the law but these are still not legal and the kicker is if your sweepstakes violates the law by improperly stating that it is open internationally, it also violates YouTube’s own guidelines which mean that YouTube can crack down, when it wishes, and punish your channel. Not a great idea.


You see … every country has its own set of laws when it comes to giveaways (or rather sweepstakes as they are known in legal field). Let’s take an example.

You’d like to give away headphones to one of your viewers. You tell people to leave a comment and you’ll give it to the one comment you like the most. Sounds harmless. The concept is perfectly legal in the US, if you follow the laws and publish a set of official rules. Now let's extend it to the easiest international location we can think of. Canada. Right?

No. Unless you make some changes, your giveaway is absolutely not legal in Canada. I’ve worked on hundred of sweepstakes, contest and giveaways around the world. The first thing you learn is that you always exclude citizens of Quebec from all giveaways. Why? Quebec has registration and approval requirements that make it just too difficult to include its residents in any giveaway.

And how about the rest of Canada? Well everywhere else giveaways based on random selection of a winner, such as in your pick of a winner based on “whichever comment you like”, is not legal. To fix that you would need to turn your giveaway into a skills-based competition by including a three part mathematical test in the process.

Now that’s sounds like fun. Actually its much easier than you realize. Look, just because you see so many YouTubers do it. Just because you haven’t heard of YouTube or the government cracking down … does not mean that these international giveaways are legal. It's time to fix this before YouTube penalizes your channel. Keep your giveaway local to either your country (like the US only) or to countries where you know how to run a local sweepstakes.

And don’t forget to come back every Tuesday and Friday over the next few weeks as I walk you thorough different aspects required to bring your YouTube giveaway into legal (and YouTube) compliance.

See you next time.