Important Legal Steps Podcasters Often Forget

podcasting microphone

Podcasting has been a great platform for content creators to reach their target audience. Due to its increasing popularity, many are trying to start a podcast and the demand for resources keeps growing every day. However, more than the equipment needed, podcasting involves other important steps rather than simply setting up mics, cameras, and start streaming.

Legal steps for podcasters

Maybe you’re thinking why are we talking about the “legal steps” when podcasting seems to be simple. Most especially when your only target is to create content as a hobby and not to make it as a marketing tool, or a way to earn money. What you need to understand is no matter what your goal is, for as long as you create content and publish it, you need to have a basic understanding of the law concerning it. 

Legal steps to make if you are a podcaster 

Intellectual property

Most often, this category of property is overlooked and sometimes, misinterpreted. In its simplest sense, intellectual property (IP) refers to intangible possessions of the human intellect. Types of IP include but are not limited to copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets, which are the well-known types. 

If you’ve decided to finally start your podcast today, setting up is thrilling, but thinking about these legal steps could be a bit overwhelming. 

Choosing a name for your podcast

Though this may sound simple, brainstorming for the name of your podcast can be stressful, too! One reason is that it serves as your ID to your target audience, thus, you really need to make the most out of it; and the other is because you need to make sure the name you were able to come up with does not infringe on another business’ trademark.

Two terms you can induce from these are infringement and trademark. We’ll talk more about trademarks in the next part of this article. 

Let’s start with identifying what a trademark is about because this will help you get out from the infringement issue. A trademark associates the goods and services YOU have created so others can distinguish that these come from YOU. This can be your choice of words, tag line, logo, sound, or the color you choose to use in connection with delivering goods and services to your consumers. 

How can I have a trademark?

You need to qualify for registration to avail your trademark. Your first legal step is to register for a trademark “in commerce” so they will know that goods or services you sold come with that mark.  In order to be sure that a trademark is not yet in use, you can try these steps: 

  1. Research on different search and social media platforms. These are a great place to check if a name is already in use. 
  1. Search in the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) – a database of registered trademarks and those which are in process of application already. 
  1. Consult with a trademark attorney. This is optional as you can already check following steps 1 and 2 for trademarks already in use. But for those who wanted to be certain, trademark attorneys have access to different databases to check and further assist you in choosing the right name as a trademark. 

What is copyright law?

Like any other law, the copyright law protects you and your original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression, which covers both your published and unpublished works. This includes but is not limited to literary works like poetry, novels, movies, songs, dramas, musical; computer software; and architecture. 

Although copyright is a form of intellectual property, which are perceived as intangible, copyright law does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation unless they are expressed tangibly.

Trademark, Copyright, and Patent

Copyright protects original works of authorship, while a patent protects inventions or discoveries. Ideas and discoveries are not protected by the copyright law, although the way in which they are expressed may be. A trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from those of others.

Given these, when you are about to make use of another person’s work, you must always ask for permission in either formal (through purchasing a license) or informal manner (asking the owner personally). 

Licensing

You want it? Get a license to use it! — This sounds pretty simple but again, complexities are just around the corner. Having a license gives you the right to use a material owned by another person under the protection of copyright. For podcasters, if you’d like to use music for your podcast, buying a license won’t really give you a hundred percent ownership to it. There are limitations that you need to always check and understand under the terms and conditions. 

Fair Use

Not all users ask for permission. In this case, they are susceptible to copyright infringement. This is where Fair Use comes in place. It serves as a defense to a claim of copyright infringement. BUT, this doesn’t give you total freedom to use somebody else’s work entirely. Fair Use will only give you that defense in the event of someone alleging you infringing their work. 

Some of the most common forms of fair use include criticisms and parody. In these ways, you get to use somebody’s work without fully owning it. If you’re not that sure whether you practice fair use or not, a lawyer’s opinion is always useful.

Cease and Desist : What to do when you get one

Your first step after receiving such an order is to check its source. You can’t just ignore a cease and desist as it won’t just disappear in an instance when it’s based on specific grounds. It is best to consult a lawyer when the worst comes.

For podcasters to avoid having one, it is best to NOT FORGET to set terms and conditions, and privacy policy. This is another legal step that should be taken.

Privacy Policy

Although privacy policy differs from country to country, in the United States – states to states even, it is best for a podcaster to comply with each of them as websites are viewed all over the world. 

We often overlook privacy policy and often just click “yes” to get into a website’s main content. But for a podcaster to be safe from the cease and desist order, it is a must to understand that a privacy policy will help you tell your current and future visitors how you will collect their personal data, for instance for your mailing list, how it will be stored, and how you will handle such data. 

Users, through the privacy policy, should know that they are not forced to give any data unless they permit the website to, and that they can contact you regarding this matter. 

Terms and Conditions

These are documents that are very helpful for a website owner and website creator. It presents to the users what are your ownership rights in terms of content, protecting your intellectual property by including disclaimers, thus, decreasing your liability to users.

Disclaimer

For content creators whose contents contain sensitive discussions and controversial issues, a disclaimer is a good way to give warning to the audience. 

Contracts

Yes, at some point, you might need to enter into a contract. If you’re creating content with another person, that is, co-hosting, a partnership agreement is the best way to start a long and lasting relationship. If in any case, you decide to go your separate ways, a partnership agreement will give you the “legal” freedom you both choose.

Partnership Agreements 

Partnership agreements serve as contingency plans whenever one of you decides to leave the partnership, or wants to sell the podcast. 

Thinking of starting a podcast? It’s not easy, but it wouldn’t be difficult, either. If you reach this part of the article, I’m pretty sure you can also follow these easy-to-follow legal steps for podcasters that no one should forget.