*The information below is not legal advice. To procure legal advice, become a Legalpreneur Member*
The podcasting industry is growing at an incredible rate. It is estimated that by the end of 2024, more than 500 million people will be listening to podcasts and more than 5 million active podcast shows! This surge in popularity has led many entrepreneurs and amateurs alike to start their own podcast. If you are one of these entrepreneurs or amateurs who want to start a podcast, you should know that there are some legal issues involved with doing so. In this post I’ll explain what they are so that when you do decide to take the plunge into podcasting land, you know what is required of you legally speaking.
As a podcaster, it’s important to understand the legal issues surrounding your podcast. You don’t want to get sued for copyright infringement, or have your show taken down because you didn’t get permission from the right people.
Although there are some serious-sounding words like “copyright,” “trademark,” and “permission” involved here, these things aren’t actually hard at all! The good news is that they’re also not expensive or time consuming either–you can do all of this legal stuff yourself with just a little bit of effort (and some free resources).
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
An LLC is a Limited Liability Company, which means you can set up your podcast to be owned by an LLC and then be able to shield yourself from personal liability from the debts of your company. Even if you’re not making money from your podcast, there are still many things that go on with a podcast that could cause you to get sued. If you have an LLC, no one can sue you personally for any debts or damages related to the business itself–only the company itself can be sued.
If your podcast is a hobby or you’re not yet directly making money from your podcast, you still need an LLC. And you need it as soon as possible, not after you’re making a certain amount of money or after a certain amount of time.
Read more here about LLCs – why you need one ASAP, how it protects you, and how to get it set up.
Don’t ever be afraid to use contracts!
As a hobby podcaster or someone not familiar with using contracts, you may be afraid of asking someone to sign a written agreement for something you may not even be making money from yet. However, even if there is no money involved yet, there is still a lot of intellectual property being created and other things that need to be protected. More on that below.
So what contracts do you need for your podcast?
Now for the podcast itself, some potential contracts are laid out below.
If you have a co-host, this is probably the most important agreement for the podcast. Think of this as a partnership agreement. This covers things such as the following: who owns what, revenue split, duties of each, etc. This is an absolute must-have when it comes to having a co-host. We have seen too many podcasts be destroyed by not having an agreement in place between the co-hosts.
Podcast Editor Agreement
Whether you start your show with an editor or later bring in an editor for your podcast, there should always be a written agreement. Some things to consider with an editor contract: deliverables, deadline to record in order to publish by a certain date, turnaround time, payment due date, and owner of intellectual property.
This is not always necessary. Most guests won’t read a full agreement before coming on every single podcast. However, it is more common with bigger shows. If you have a new or smaller show, I suggest just having the guest agree to certain terms. These can be implemented in the scheduler when the guest goes to schedule their interview, or you can include them in an email.
Congrats! Getting sponsors for your show can be extremely rewarding. However, don’t just take the money. You still want a written agreement in place. You can only imagine what’s covered: deliverables, how many episodes, payment, is commission involved, etc.
This can be even more exciting than a sponsorship agreement! Networks tend to bring more listeners because the network is spending money to advertise the show. However, you also want to ensure you’re not signing away the rights to your show. If you’re signing with a network, the network will most likely be sending you their contract. Do NOT sign this agreement without having an attorney review it first. You absolutely can and should be sending edits back to the network for the agreement.
There are a number of contracts you will need as a podcaster. But don’t fret! You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars working with a lawyer to get these drafted for your podcast. When you’re just getting started, template contracts are typically the best way to go. Check out our Contract Vault, or our Legalpreneur Membership, which includes all of our contract templates.
Trademarks are incredibly important for protecting your brand. Again, even if your podcast is a hobby or a side hustle, trademarks need to be top of mind. The most important elements that should be protected with a trademark are your podcast name, logo and slogan if you have one.
When it comes to trademark infringement, it’s not just a matter of who has the exact same name. Trademark infringement occurs when consumers are “likely to be confused” as to who the owner is. This means any similar names can be trademark infringement.
Learn more about trademarks in these podcast episodes:
Episode 248 – A Deep Dive Into Trademarks Part 1
Episode 251 – A Deep Dive Into Trademarks Part 2
Episode 272 – When Should You File A Trademark Application
Copyright protection is automatic and does not require registration. Copyright law protects original works of authorship fixed in a tangible form of expression. For example, it covers the following:
- literary works (including computer software)
- musical compositions (including accompanying words)
- dramatic works, including any accompanying music
- pantomimes and choreographic works
- pictorial, graphic and sculptural works
When it comes to your podcast, the typical copyrighted works are the episodes themselves, the cover art, and the show notes.
You don’t need a copyright registration to have copyright rights. However, you do need a copyright registration in order to sue for copyright infringement.
We hope this article has given you a better understanding of the legal issues surrounding podcasting. We know it can be a daunting process, but there are many resources available for starting and growing your podcast. Most importantly, make sure that you protect yourself from liability as quickly as possible. It is tempting to leave this stuff on the back burner until you’re bigger or until you’re making money from the show. However, waiting will potentially cost you 1000x more money in the long run.
If you’re getting started with your podcast or wanting to finally protect your podcast, our Legalpreneur Membership is the one-stop-shop for all of your legal needs!
*The information in this article is not legal advice*