Is Your Sweepstakes or Giveaway on YouTube Legal? How to Assure Legal Compliance of Online Sweepstakes?

Today we’re going to discuss whether you planned giveaway or sweepstakes on YouTube is legal. The question of legality is based on three sources of rules and laws. (1) YouTube’s own guidelines, (2) State, federal and international lottery and gambling laws and (3) state advertising laws.

Why is this even an issue? After all, all you want to do is setup a simple giveaway. Maybe you'd like give away a piece of tech review-unit to a viewer who comments on your video. Why do we need to deal with such deep and complicated areas of law? It may sound like overkill to you but in fact sweepstakes are strictly regulated not only on YouTube, but on every social media platform and in every state in the United States and across the world.

Legally speaking, your planned giveaway is considered a sweepstakes and in the US, sweepstakes have been regulated for over 150 years. And for most of that time, these giveaways were outright illegal. Why? because they were often used as a way to scam people. In fact, this is still an issue today. Many American's, mostly elderly, are victims of fraudulent lotteries and sweepstakes. This is a real problem and is closely watched at both the local and federal levels.

Now … if I were to quickly survey most giveaways and sweepstakes on YouTube, I’d say that most are legally non-compliant and some violate international laws outright. As a result, many are not in compliance with YouTube’s own guidelines. You see for the most part YouTube’s own guidelines say that we must follow federal and state laws when it comes to giveaways and a violation of any law is a violation of YouTube's own guidelines. 

When I look around, what are the issues that make most YouTube giveaways and sweepstakes, and maybe yours too, legally non-compliant?

  1. The number one issue is the need to publish “official rules” for the giveaways and sweepstakes. Every state in the United States, and YouTube as well, require you to include “”official rules” with your giveaway. If you are not providing official rules, either as part of the entry process or in your video’s description, you are violating the law and not in compliance with YouTube.
  2. The number two issue is opening your giveaway and sweepstakes internationally. Every single country has its own laws when it comes to giveaways. Some require registration and approval by the government while others forbid non-skills based giveaways. When YouTubers say that their sweepstakes is open worldwide, they break the laws of virtually every country around the world and as a result YouTube’s own guidelines.
  3. And Three ... YouTube requires you to include a privacy policy with your giveaway or sweepstakes indicating how information collected as part of entries will be used. How many privacy policies have you seen lately inside video descriptions? I haven’t.

So is your giveaway or sweepstakes on YouTube legal? If you follow the law it is. Are you? Unfortunately most YouTubers do not. They’re counting on YouTube’s lack of current enforcement. But believe me … I’ve represented hundreds of giveaway sponsors across all social media platforms ... eventually YouTube will crack down. It's better to slow down today and try to reach legal compliance.