How to PODCAST Legally

As of January 2021, Podcast Insights says there are over 1,750,000 podcasts out there, and over 43 million episodes. Podcasting has become a HUGE way in which all kinds of people consume information, learn new things, relax and unwind, and connect with their communities. Personally, I have incorporated listening to podcasts while I fold laundry, while cleaning up toddler toys, or while driving in the car. It has also become a big way many entrepreneurs are getting their message out there, bringing valuable content to the masses, and creating another stream of revenue through sponsorships and course sales. 

SO – whether you’ve been a podcaster for years, or are thinking of hitting record this year, there are a few REALLY important legal things you need to know. For those of you who know me, you know I’m a no-fluff, no BS kind of teacher, and explain confusing or boring legal information in a way that is easy to understand, and gives you an actionable check list so you can get the documents and signatures you need, protect yourself and your business, and PODCAST ON! 

Without further delay, here are my top 5 MUST haves to PODCAST LEGALLY: 

  1. Make sure you have legal rights to the show name BEFORE you start 

There are two pieces to this: 

FIRST – when you decide what you want to name your podcast, make sure no one else is already using it for a podcast, or anything similar. Why? Even if you aren’t intentionally copying someone else, if another company or person is using the same or confusingly similar name for a podcast, online show, or something similar, and was using it before you, they will likely have superior rights to the name (Yes, EVEN if you trademark it first… more on that HERE.) The last thing you need is to spend a bunch of money, time, and energy on branding and building awareness for your new podcast, only to receive a cease & desist letter a few months after you launch, explaining that you need to immediately stop ALL use of the name to avoid further legal action. 

The best way to do this? Hire a trademark attorney (like myself – I’ve got you covered!) to have them run a comprehensive search of your new podcast name idea, and issue you an opinion letter to advise on the availability of that name. My firm does this for a couple hundred bucks, and will give you a FULL understanding of whether or not you’ll be able to use the mark legally. The opinion letter will also outline my recommendations and likelihood of success, should you want to register the name as a trademark with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. If you’re thinking of putting any kind of money into branding for the podcast, this is a MUST. EMAIL MY FIRM HERE if you’d like to set this up! 

SECOND – once you know you have an original podcast name, you want to consider whether you’d like to move forward with trademarking the name for your podcast, and any other related products or services that you will sell under that name. (More on trademarking HERE, and feel free to reach out if you’d like my firm to handle your trademark needs!) Trademarking can be a fairly intricate process, and you want to be sure you’re doing it right, with an educated IP attorney and law firm. 

  1. Have ALL Guests Sign a Podcast Release

Before anyone steps up to that mic to record on your show, make sure they have read, reviewed, AND SIGNED your Podcast Guest Release. (Click here to purchase your template if you need one!) This is also a HUGELY important piece of the puzzle, and one your business cannot afford to skip…yes, even if you’re just interviewing your friend, and even if the interviewee is very casual and seems okay with whatever you want to do. In a nutshell, this document will address things like: 

  1. Your right to broadcast AND MONETIZE the interview without providing any compensation to the interviewee; 
  2. Your right to pull quotes, clips, and other marketing materials from the original interview, without the interviewee’s permission. 
  3. Your right to use the interviewee’s name, photograph, and any other similar information to market the episode anywhere you see fit, including all social media channels and email marketing strategies. 
  4. Your right to choose not to broadcast the interview for any reason. This can happen if the interviewee does something radical, that makes you no longer interested in being associated with them (unlikely, but has definitely happened!), if the interview did not go as well as you hoped, you had technical difficulties, or decide to go in another direction for any reason – you don’t owe them anything, and they don’t have any claim against your company. 
  5. Whether the interviewee has agreed to any kind of promotion or marketing of the interview, including sharing it with their audience, providing links or free products or services for your audience, etc. 

While often times interviews are recorded, broadcasted, and shared with NO issues, it only takes one issue and lawsuit (or threat of legal action) to drain your business bank account or land you in legal hot water. For this reason, it’s SO crucial to have this in place, and have all interviewees automatically sign this at the time they agree to the interview. My recommendation? Send it over at the same time your team sends the virtual calendar email where they will select their interview time, or when you’re emailing with them to set up the interview. Send this over via an electronic signature platform, collect the completed document, and file it away before the interview and promotional period begins. 

       3. Have ALL Sponsors Sign a Podcast Sponsorship Agreement 

Once you are ready to start monetizing your podcast with sponsorships, advertisements, and other paid content, you will need a Podcast Sponsorship Agreement ready to go, and will send to ALL potential sponsors for them to read, review, and sign, BEFORE they pay you and finalize the sponsorship deal. (The timing of this is really important – the contract MUST be reviewed and signed prior to the completion of the deal. The contract IS the deal, and can’t be an afterthought). 

The Podcast Sponsorship Agreement (CLICK HERE TO GRAB YOUR TEMPLATE!) will cover all the details of the sponsored content, including 

  1. The price for the ad placement, and how many there will be 
  2. Where the ad is place within the show (beginning? Middle? End? Multiple times?) 
  3. The actual words and information that will make up the sponsored content, and who will have final say in what is said? 
  4. Is there a discount code for your audience? 
  5. What happens if you make an error in reading their sponsored content? 
  6. What happens if they don’t make any money and don’t gain any followers from the sponsored content? 
  7. Other similar potential issues and how they will be resolved. 

Like the Podcast Guest Release, this is something you don’t want to skip, or try to DIY. There are only a few legal considerations when it comes to podcasting, but they are important!! These two documents will help ensure your podcast runs smoothly, is credible and professional in front of the high caliber individuals you interview, and protects you and your business in the event something goes sideways, or a guest is upset about something. 

4. Get FTC Compliant with Your Data Collection

If you will also be building an email list, or have a way to allow listeners to contact you via your website or email, you need to have a privacy policy linked on all web pages where listeners can go and input their data. In other words – any website where people can enter their name and email, or where they can type a message to you with their email address or other contact information for you to respond back, MUST have a privacy policy linked on the page. CLICK HERE FOR YOUR PRIVACY POLICY TEMPLATE. The FTC, along with additional global data protection and collection regulations like GDPR and CCPA, require you to include an updated, internationally-compliant privacy policy on ALL web pages where anyone can enter their personal information. The vast majority of the time, a free privacy policy generator, or templated version from your software platform is NOT going to cut it to be compliant worldwide. (And to be totally transparent here, the fees for not complying with these regulations are RIDICULOUSLY high.) No one is messing around with data collection and privacy these days, so PLEASE be sure you pay attention to these laws and take them seriously. If you want more information on this, CLICK HERE

Overall, Podcasting can be a GREAT way to build an audience and platform for your business, as well as make connections, make money, and build a successful business. Make sure you implement these easy legal steps, and grab what you need to Podcast legally!!

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