Podcasting Copyright Laws: How to Avoid Infringement with Your Podcast

A guide to laws and guidelines designed to maintain the originality of podcasts and ensure proper crediting to creators.

Podcasting Copyright Laws: How to Avoid Infringement with Your Podcast

In the last couple of years, the interest in podcasting has grown dramatically, making this field lucrative for creators and advertisers alike. According to Statista, it's predicted that the number of monthly podcast listeners in the US alone will hit 164 million in the year 2024. Companies like Spotify and YouTube also foster the trend by partnering with world-renowned podcast creators for exclusive deals and catering to podcast creators with their functionality.

The accessibility of equipment, various free podcast streaming platforms, and relative ease of podcast creation have notably facilitated this proliferation.

Yet, laws and guidelines exist designed to maintain the originality of podcasts and ensure proper crediting to creators. Therefore, before joining the podcast bandwagon, you should conduct thorough research to ensure compliance with copyright laws and keep your podcast in good standing. Hopefully, our guide will help.

Podcasting involves various copyright considerations, so you need to be mindful of these laws to avoid legal issues. The first thing that comes to mind is probably copyright-protected music and sounds that you can’t use in your shows. Using copyrighted music without permission is generally not allowed, so you may need to obtain licences for the music you use in your podcast or use royalty-free music, music with Creative Commons licences, or music provided by podcast-friendly platforms. Some creators release their work under Creative Commons licences, specifying the ways others can use their content, so always adhere to the terms of the licence.

When using music or other copyrighted material, check the terms of the licence agreements to understand the extent of your rights and any restrictions.

Another aspect of copyright you should keep in mind is fair use. Fair use allows the use of copyrighted material for purposes such as criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. However, determining fair use can be subjective, and it's essential to understand the factors that influence whether the use qualifies as fair.

Shifting focus to legal considerations in guest interviews and collaborations, this aspect of podcasting involves some grey areas. Questions about requiring guests to sign consent forms often arise. While this might seem like a potential concern, obtaining signed release forms from guests is crucial for legal protection. These forms grant permission to use guests' voices, stories, and contributions in podcast episodes. The release form should clearly outline the granted permissions, the purpose of usage, and any specific terms or conditions.

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Handling sensitive topics or disclosures with care and respect is equally essential. Ensuring proper consent and understanding is in place is not only a legal obligation but also a respectful practice in the podcasting realm.

Here are some other aspects to keep in mind:

🔴 Public domain

Content in the public domain is not protected by copyright and can be freely used. But the difficulty is to ensure that the material you use is genuinely in the public domain.

🔴 Guest contributions

Obtain proper permissions or licences for any copyrighted material contributed by guests, such as music, images, or other creative works.

🔴 Quotes and excerpts

Be cautious when using quotes or excerpts from copyrighted works and if you do, always give credit to the original author by citing the source.

🔴 DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act)

Podcast platforms often comply with the DMCA, which provides a framework for addressing copyright infringement claims related to online content.

Plenty of reasons. Complying with copyright laws, privacy regulations, and other legal requirements helps you avoid potential legal issues, such as lawsuits or copyright infringement claims, and acknowledging and respecting intellectual property rights, including copyrights and trademarks, ensures that you protect your own creative work.

Adhering to legal standards and ethical practices enhances your credibility as a podcaster and a source of information. It establishes trust with the audience and can attract reputable guests or sponsors. Let alone co-hosts and contributors: legal considerations, including contracts and agreements, help in establishing clear relationships with co-hosts, contributors, and sponsors, contributing to the long-term sustainability of the podcast. Legal missteps might lead to damage to a podcaster's reputation, so being mindful of legal considerations helps maintain a positive public image.

How to legally use music in podcasting

Above, we’ve mentioned a few options: royalty-free music and music with Creative Commons licences. You might be wondering if the incorporation of trending music from albums and movies into podcasts is the right choice. The response to this is a resounding no—such music is protected by copyright, and utilising it without proper authorisation can result in legal complications.

Fortunately, obtaining legal and affordable music for podcasts has become more accessible. Platforms like Soundstripe, Epidemic Sound, Artlist, or ALIBI Music offer licensed music suitable for podcasts. These platforms typically provide subscription services or pay-per-track options, ensuring podcasters have access to quality music while adhering to copyright regulations.

Laws every podcaster should be aware of

Podcasting involves various legal considerations, and it’s safe and wise to know about relevant laws to ensure they comply with regulations and protect themselves from potential legal issues.

  • Be cautious about using copyrighted material without permission.
  • Understand fair use and how it applies to your content.

Trademark Law

  • Avoid using trademarks without proper authorisation.
  • Ensure that your podcast name and branding don't infringe on existing trademarks.

Intellectual Property Rights

  • Respect the intellectual property rights of others.
  • Clearly define ownership of content, especially if you have co-hosts or guests.

Privacy Laws

  • Be mindful of privacy laws, especially when discussing personal information.
  • Obtain consent before sharing private conversations or interviews.

Defamation Laws

  • Be cautious about making false statements that could harm someone's reputation.
  • Fact-check information before presenting it in your podcast.

Contracts and Agreements

  • Have clear contracts with co-hosts, guests, and contributors.
  • Clearly define roles, responsibilities, and ownership of content.

Advertising and Endorsements

  • Disclose any paid endorsements or sponsorships.
  • Understand the regulations around advertising and product promotion.

Terms of Service and Content Hosting

  • Understand the terms of service of your podcast hosting platform.
  • Comply with any guidelines or rules set by hosting platforms.

Local Laws and Regulations

  • Be aware of any specific laws or regulations related to broadcasting or online content in your region or the regions where your audience is located.

Age Restrictions

  • Be aware of any age restrictions that may apply to certain content, especially if your podcast is not suitable for all audiences.

Are podcasts copyrighted?

Sure! Podcasts, like any creative work, are automatically protected by copyright as soon as they are created and fixed in a tangible medium. This means that the content of a podcast, including the audio recordings, scripts, and any original material, is subject to copyright protection. The creator or the entity that owns the rights to the podcast, typically the creator or the podcasting network, holds the copyright.

Copyright protection is automatic upon the creation of the podcast. There is no need to register the podcast with a copyright office for it to be protected.

The copyright owner has exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display the podcast. Others need permission to use or reproduce significant portions of the content.

If a podcast involves multiple contributors, it's essential to clarify ownership and copyright through agreements. For example, co-hosts, guests, or producers may have specific rights or obligations regarding the content.

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Some podcasts may be released into the public domain intentionally by the creator, allowing anyone to use, modify, and distribute the content freely. However, this is relatively uncommon.

To steer clear of copyright infringement in your podcast, consider the following strategies:

Create your own original works, be it cover artwork or music. This is the most straightforward way to avoid infringement, as you are the creator. Ensure to include a copyright notice, such as "© 2015 John Smith" for art or "℗ 2015 JS Records, Inc." for music.

Seek permission from the rights-holder or creator before using their work. Ideally, make the request in writing, clearly outlining the intended use, and obtain a written, unequivocal assent. Alternatively, you can formalise the arrangement with a written licensing agreement signed by both parties. If legal assistance is not feasible, use a resourceful book that provides forms for licensing agreements.

Permission is not required for the following in your podcast:

  • Works in the public domain.
  • Works owned by the US Government.
  • Facts, ideas, theories, slogans, titles, or short phrases.
  • Creative Commons licensed content.
  • Making a "fair use," as discussed above.

By adopting these approaches, you can start podcasting and minimise the risk of copyright infringement.

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