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Podcasts and Copyrights

Podcasting has a very low barrier to entry; all you need is audio recording software and a means of creating an RSS feed, be it through software or manual work. As a result, just about anyone can podcast, and the quality of podcasts is therefore highly variable; there are professional podcasts that rival professional broadcasts in quality, and there are amateur podcasts that can't even be heard clearly. For this reason, copyright infringement leeches, often unwittingly, into a number of podcasts. To produce a successful podcast, it is important to understand and respect Western copyright laws. To help ensure that these things are done, we have compiled some information about podcasts, music, and copyright law.

Podsafe Music

Podcasters are not able to use just any music in their productions. Just as with photographs, while something might be accessible, its use may be prohibited without express permission from the content's creator. This fact, however, does not mean that all music owned by others is off-limits to podcasters; there are a number of ways podsafe music, or music that may be used legally in a podcast, can be found.


Public Domain

Before you determine whether you can use a song legally despite its copyright, double-check to see if it is, in fact, copyrighted. While you may not always be able to find certain documentation that a song is copyrighted, you can determine whether the song is considered public domain. Music in the public domain is open for public use, making it podsafe. However, do not assume that music is considered public domain if you simply cannot find a copyright notice; it is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to copyright law.


Creative Commons

Creative commons music is music that has been opened for use under a set of conditions, and that is therefore podsafe under these conditions. To use creative commons music, you must give the creator credit, and must not alter the song or use it for commercial purposes.


Fair Use

Fair use occurs when copyrighted materials are legally used or cited without permission from the work's creator, and refers to limited and "transformative" use of the work. As one might expect, there are strict and complicated criteria that are used to determine whether the use of a work constitutes fair use, including parameters regarding the nature of the use of the work, the length of the segment of the work used, what kind of work was used, and the impact of the work on the commercial value of the new content. However, other factors may also be considered. Given that this is a fairly subjective matter, relying on fair use policies to ensure the legality of your use without legal aid is not advisable.


Copyrighted Music

If no other options will suffice, you may still legally use copyrighted music, only for a price. Typically, one must pay royalties to use copyrighted music, meaning that each time someone uses a track, they must pay a certain fee to its creator. A more appealing option is the use of royalty-free tracks. To obtain the right to use a royalty-free track, one must pay the work's creator a certain fee, which varies by work. However, once one has paid this fee, they have the right to use the track without limitations for no additional expense.


Knowing the law and how it affects you and your work is critical to creating a successful and legal production. However, copyright law can be fairly complicated and occasionally difficult to interpret accurately. If you are ever unsure as to whether your use of a work would constitute a copyright infringement, forgo using it, or seek proper legal counsel to help you determine how your use would stand with the law; it is better to be safe than sorry.

About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for RecordForAll audio recording and editing software.