Of all the things that can possibly give you a headache about your podcast, podcast copyright is probably on top of the list, especially if you haven’t given it a lot of attention for a long time. While it’s a great idea to use images and music to make your podcast more engaging, it’s a given that you should have the rights to those media before using them. A lot of lawyers and other people would come after you if they see you using copyrighted images or music and you don’t have the license to use them. If you think you have these issues lurking, especially in your archives of past episodes, then now is the time to fix them before someone finds out and decides to make a quick buck. In this episode, Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard give us a few best practices in making sure we don’t run into any of these problems with our podcast. Join in and learn how to protect yourself from potentially costly mistakes that can easily be avoided if you’re aware.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
Podcast Copyright Best Practices Regarding Video, Music, And Images
We are going to cover copyrights in this episode. We’re going to cover it in a slightly different way. We’re talking about pretty much music copyrights, any video rights in case you have stock footage or anything like that, and image rights. We’re going to talk about it in that broad sense. Are you putting together the best practices for your podcast to prove that you have the right to use your images, your music, or your video clips because there are a lot of cease and desist letters going around? It is because the lawyers need something to do.
There are whole entire firms and software right now that are trolling through all of this and sending cease and desist letters and other things like that. YouTube has a whole process by which if they don’t see what they’re looking for, it comes back, alerts you, and says, “You got to prove it. Do you have the rights to this music? Are you allowed to do this or we’re going to take it off?” A takedown is a part of the whole industry. It’s the DCMA.
You have that process. It can already happen where they can force the takedown of your content. It could go even deeper with liability. We’ve seen that with some clients before where they didn’t have rights to images that belong to news media and other things. What we want to talk about in this episode is to make sure that it’s clear to you what your process should be. This is not about copywriting your own stuff. We’ll deal with that in the future.
This is critical for podcasters. Let me give you an example. One example that we see happen a lot is a law firm that is trying to make money for themselves, usually more than for their client, although they’ll say it’s for their client, they’ll do a reverse image search in Google. Their client has copyrighted images. Maybe they’re on iStock Photo or Getty Images or some of these sites that people get images from.
They end up seeing the image used on websites with no attribution to where they got it from and that’s pretty common. Not everybody would put attribution, but these law firms are going to reach out if there’s one of these images on your website and say, “Do you have a license for this image? Please provide it to prove you do.”
One thing they might do is send you a cease and desist letter, but they’re more interested in seeing how long you’ve had it on your website and make you pay a penalty for having used it without having purchased a proper license, without having the rights to do. Many of us entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and small business owners may not even realize this is a thing. This is something that you can get in trouble for and end up being stuck with a pretty big bill for using a copyrighted image without permission or a proper license.
I want you to think about this. It’s worse if you use that as your episode image because of the syndication implications of that. That it’s syndicated out there. It’s been on Apple and Spotify. It’s been in all those places. They’re going to make a bigger case out of that. They will your website, especially if you can prove you hardly have any traffic to your website unless you had a big deal website with a lot of traffic on a monthly basis. They can’t prove that it did anything for you.
Although they will still come after you for that, it’s less likely to mean as much as if you used it in an episode art situation or a cover art situation. Cover art is worse. It’s representative of your whole show and it’s been used everywhere for as long as your show has been live. That’s something that you do need to watch out for.
This is something that a lot of you who go to Fiverr or to some of these other places to have your cover art created. You don’t always know where they get images and if they have given you images with full rights to what they’ve done with them. You have trouble tracing back to them and getting to that person and saying, “Where did we buy the stock image? I know you charged me for it, but I don’t have any number. I don’t have any license number.” This is where it will fall apart if you do not do that from the beginning. You may end up having to replace your cover art immediately.
This is only one example, but the big important message here is if you don’t know where your images, music, or video clips if you’re using stock video, came from, it’s time to figure it out. There’s no time too soon. You need to know where it came from.
You need to figure it out at the time that it’s created. That’s something that’s critically important. When we create them for our clients, we have a record of all of that. Where did that image come from? It’s usually stored with the image. It’s in the metadata that’s there. We know where that came from, what site it came from, or what license it is. If there was something wrong with it, we could go back, look at the account, double check, and say, “There was a typo in it even though we gave attribution. We did something wrong.”
We can fix that and that can be done as well. That’s the first thing. The second part of what I want to tap into what Tom said here is that a lot of times, you assume that your guest has a right to the image when they send it to you. Sometimes they don’t even have a right to their own profile image and they don’t know it. If you’re accepting images from your guests, make sure that it is in the metadata. Make sure you’ve asked them. That’s the source time point at which you want to ask them, “Do you have a right to use these images?”
Just to be clear. As Tracy was saying, our customers that we’re doing production services when they provide us with an image. They say, “Here’s an image. I got it from my guest. Please use it for the featured image for the podcast. Use it in the blog post,” or however they want us to use it. We don’t vet that for them. They’re saying, “Here’s an image. You can use it.” That’s fine. We’ll use it but if there’s any copyright issue, that’s on you, the customer. You provided the image. You’re the source.
We’re not going to question you. We’re understanding, “You have the right to use this image. You provided it to us,” so we’ll go and use it. Make sure that you do. For headshots from a guest and things like that, if they’re giving it to you, you have their permission because they’re giving it to you. We’ve seen it happen where other images a guest provides end up having some significant copyright issues even years later and it can cost hundreds and even thousands.
We’ve seen it cost thousands of dollars to pay a penalty when in fact the guest didn’t have the right and it’s on your website. They’re coming after you, not the guest because it’s on your website. It’s not to overly alarm you about this or scare you off from using images. Using unique images for every episode and using them on your website related to the episode if there’s a blog or some post for the episode, is an excellent thing to do. Also for social media, shared graphics. You definitely should do that. All we’re saying is to make sure you have permission and the right to use the photo before you do.
Tom, let’s talk a little bit about YouTube because YouTube has gotten a little more sophisticated with how they do things, require, and have fields for putting in what you would call attribution, license agreements, or anything like that. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?
Yeah. On YouTube, some people are posting their podcasts on YouTube as an audiogram. Others are recording their podcast as videos also like we are and putting them on their YouTube channel. This applies to both of those situations because most of you, podcasters out there, and pretty much all of our podcasters have a prerecorded intro or outro for the show that has music.
We’ve had people come to us and bring original music they had made for them. That’s wonderful. It’s rare, but they do. Other people have been podcasting for years and they provide us with. They have a pre-recorded intro and outro. We’re not creating that. Hopefully, they had the right to that music. When we are launching a show, we have music sites that we pay for that we have the rights to choose and download music and we have a license for that. This is very important.
There is a code that you have the ability to put in it and if you think of it like in an image, if you’ve ever bought an image off a stock image site, they have an attribution link usually and that has all that information in it as well. In music, it has its own same model, but it’s a number.
Over the years, we’ve evolved which music sites that we use for the work we do on behalf of our clients. There are lots of good ones. I’m not saying one is necessarily better than another. I’m not making a judgment on that. The one that we use, we get a license number and it’s called Content ID Number. YouTube is better than a lot of places you would distribute your content on this particular issue.
When you upload a video to your YouTube channel, just like you would enter the title of your video, the description of your video, put keyword tags associated with your video, all those things you do to configure a YouTube video for publication, there’s another field called Content ID. You put that number in there and you’re telling YouTube, “There’s music in this, or there’s also stock video footage.”
With our editors, when we edit their video, we’ve also created a video intro that has music in it, but also a lot of times has some stock video footage that we’ve purchased on behalf of our client from a stock video website. That intro is more visually dynamic and you also have a license for that. Whatever purchased music or video clips you might have, and if you’re a do-it-yourselfer out there, you may be doing this on your own. You want to make sure you have that license and on YouTube, you enter that content ID because then that’s part of the video. In YouTube’s system, it tells YouTube and the world, “I’ve done this properly. I have the right to this,” and no one’s going to bother you.
Remember that all of these systems use a bot. The bot goes through it. When they hear music that they know is already licensed, it already knows that. When it doesn’t see that content ID, that code number in the space, that space is blank, they assume you’re not in compliance and you get that notification. It’s all automated. There’s no human until you get all the way up through the system if you’re fighting it because something’s not right. It is that systematized.
Comply with the system. It’s going to make everything smooth and easy. The number one thing that will happen to you first is your monetization will be turned off on your YouTube. You’ll then lose access. They’ll turn off access to the videos or to the channel to all of those things. You can cascade problems from doing this if you don’t comply and reply when you do get a takedown.
A similar thing can happen with your podcast episodes. It would be whoever the copyright holder is. If they believe you don’t have the right to use the music that’s in your podcast, then they’ll reach out to the individual listening app and ask them to take your show down because you don’t have the rights. Usually, they’ll reach out to you first and say, “Prove that you have the rights.”
The podcast ecosystem does not have as good a proactive system as YouTube does for asserting that, “This music I’m using in my prerecorded intro, I do have the rights to it.” Sometimes you may get an email from a copyright owner or an agency or an attorney saying, “We see you’re using this music. Do you have the right to it?” You should have the right to it. We don’t think anybody should be using any music in a podcast they don’t have true permission to use.
You want it as you go on, especially if you’re self-publishing your episodes, maybe editing your own audio. You want to keep records of every episode if you use different music in different episodes or at minimum, “Your pre-recorded intro or outro, I’m using this music. Here’s my license.” Keep it in a folder somewhere on your computer that you have it or in the cloud somewhere where you can access it that so when anybody asks, you can go, copy, and paste. “Yes, I purchased the license. Here’s when I purchased it. Here’s the information.” They’ll say, “Thank you very much.” They’ll leave you alone. They are not going to bother you again.
A lot of times, the problem with that is that a producer made this for you. Somebody else made this for you. Someone on Fiverr, some contractor, or a freelancer made this for you and you didn’t get it at the time. That’s a more common problem and they know that. That’s how they are generating more income for themselves because then it’ll be cheaper for you to pay another $50 to them to buy it again and be in compliance than it is for you to try to track it down, find it, and you won’t be able to.
They could even try to extort more out of you. Their choice is to tell you that you have to take it all down and then they’re going to sue you. Their opportunity is to take down first and that takes down your entire show and you have to replace it all and you have to do it all. Another reason why we utilize that intro or outro mixing is that when we can do a custom intro or outro, we can remove it and we put a brand new one in. If there’s ever a problem, we’ve got a solution for that. It was a quick and easy way for us to replace those intro and outro if we ever had an issue or if we ever needed to update them.
For those of you that may be new to the show or to Podetize and what we do, I want to explain that a little further. What Tracy’s talking about is using our platform to add your intro and outro on your show and then not have it edited in or baked into one MP3 file that you upload and publish. Our system gives you the opportunity to do that differently.
You upload that prerecorded intro or outro and our system adds it to the episode before it publishes. What that leaves the flexibility for is easily retroactively replacing it with a new one without having to do all the hard work of re-editing and re-uploading every episode. Those are the advantages of hosting on Podetize.
While we’re saying that, let’s do that right now. This episode will probably fall into the new updated intro/outro that we’ve created where we decided to get updated music.
Did we decide that we’re going to start with the new episodes going forward of that or are we replacing him on past episodes also because that’s a choice?
I don’t know what choice we made and we’ll have to figure it out but either way, you could hear the transition if we left it in and if we didn’t, we have the ability to switch them all out. Our team is flagging me in the chat, which is wonderful, telling me that we wanted to replace them on all episodes because we wanted to do this to show everybody how easy that is for us to be able to do that. We are going to replace them on all episodes. When you listen to this episode, you will hear the new intro/outro that we’ve recorded.
More to the point that you’ve already heard it because, at this point of this episode, you heard the beginning already.Using images for blogs or posts related to your podcast episode is an excellent thing to do. But make sure you have the rights to use those photos before you do. Click To Tweet
Listen to the end and you’ll hear the outro. We updated our music at that same time. There are also a couple of other practices you might want to try here and this is what I’m going to refer to and say. If you want to make this easy on yourself, you don’t want to forget and you don’t want to lose it, put it in your default episode call to action.
A lot of hosts have this. We have it on the Podetize platform but basically, you have a default description that goes into every episode and you can add to the bottom of that a code that says, “Here’s my license ID for the music,” and give attribution to whoever the music is. We’ve had people do that. The image that they use was a photograph taken of them or something and they give attribution to the famous photographer for their cover art image and they put it right there in their episode description and their show description.
You could do that either way. At least, you have it set into your feed somewhere so you’ll never lose it then. You either use your show description or your episode description or both. Depending on what it is that you’re using, you can do that way as well. It’s there. The one issue we also have heard from musicians who have podcasts and this is a little bit different. If your music is already being sold on Spotify and you use a segment of that music on your podcast, you are more likely to get nasty letters and messages from Spotify or from Apple.
They already have a system that is checking for duplicate music and music that is already licensed because they want to make sure that you’re paying Apple or Spotify for access to that music. When they hear that duplication of that music, they know it. We have had the musicians that I’ve worked with so far all put them both in their show description and in their episode description. They are making sure that everyone knows that I am the author of this. I am the songwriter. I am the musician. That way, there’s a tie to those two things. There might even be an account number that sometimes they reference.
We have some podcasts that are for musicians and interview musicians. They’re talking about their music, paying clips, and things like that. Fortunately, musicians probably more than any other type of individual who might be podcasting, are very well aware of copyright laws and rules and they’re usually on top of it.
It does work a little bit differently. I’m going to say that the bots in that system pick it up a lot more easily if you don’t have your reference numbers and you don’t have what you need. You do have to be careful with that.
I hope any of you podcasters out there reading this episode have not had to deal with this because it’s not fun. It takes time and energy. You’re on the defensive when anybody asks you about it to prove because it is up to you to prove you have the rights to the music, the video clip, the image that you’re using, or whatever it is. All we’re saying is to stay on top of it and be proactive. If, for some reason, you’re out of compliance, let’s start fixing it before someone discovers it.
Before someone notices. If you know it, then go fix it right now. I want to recap a couple of best practices I find the easiest way to do. The easiest way to do it is whenever you buy a video clip, a music clip, or an image of some kind, you get it from somewhere that somebody you contracted for it. Immediately put the information in the metadata of the file.
You go get more info and you can type it in manually if you need to, but put it in there from the beginning because that’s the easiest storage place for it. You will always be able to access and find it and 9 times out of 10, the bot that’s searching for it will also look at that metadata and see the compliance there. They may not be able to associate you having purchased it with that number and that’s something that they may ask you for proof on.
The other side of that is to make sure that even if you no longer use that stock photo account or something, keep your account open to access the library at any time even if you’re not paying for new credits. Almost all of them allow you to go into some free mode on all of them so that you can maintain the library of what you purchased. They should always be there.
Keep access open to those things. You’re going to need them at some point in the future. Those are a couple of best practices. Again, as I said, if it’s an ongoing thing, if it’s something that goes throughout like cover art images, episode art images, or music, put it right there in the descriptions in your feed and save yourself some time and energy.
One other little tip that can help you is going to be unique to images. This won’t work if you’re taking music and putting it into your intro because that gets saved as its own file name and a part of every podcast that has a unique file name. If you’re using an image, this would be more in your blog as a reference image. If it’s part of your cover art, again, you’re going to alter it. Use a portion of it and save it as something new.
However, if you are using an image the way it is as a reference image and you’ve purchased that image from one of these image websites like iStock, Shutterstock, Getty Image, or any of those, there’s a file name that they give that photo. Save it and don’t change the file name because if you publish that on your website and that file name is the same, while that is not conclusive proof that you purchased the license, it is pretty darn good and they usually won’t bother you because they’ll see, “That’s the same file name as what we put up on iStock.”
That’s in their account, too.Stay on top of any copyright issues in your podcast and be proactive. If for some reason you're out of compliance, start fixing it before someone discovers it. Click To Tweet
It’s very likely the only reason that the image file name is the same is that you downloaded it from that platform and paid for it. If you didn’t pay for it, it would have a watermark on it. It wouldn’t be the same but if it’s the pure image, it has that file name. It’s pretty good circumstantial evidence that you did the right thing even if you haven’t put the license in the metadata as Tracy suggested.
It’ll be easier to find in the account later. If you don’t have your account open, it’s hard to figure it out.
If you change that file name, then they get a little more suspicious. They’d say, “Where’d you get this? I want to see the license.” The bots tend to leave you more alone if the file name’s the same. That’s all I’m suggesting.
I do want to say one last thing. Just because you’re using an AI image generator or an AI music generator, those exist out there. Although I have to say, I think the music’s crappy, but that’s my own personal viewpoint. Even though you’re doing that, those are not copyrightable. That doesn’t mean that you won’t have a copyright infringement problem because some of these images that are being created already infringed somebody else’s copyright. Be very cautious that you could still end up in a takedown situation over some of those AI images right now. You’re not home-free with them at this stage of the game yet because how they’re generated is still controversial.
AI image generation is still a little bit of the Wild West right now, isn’t it?
Yeah. It’s that so many of them have learned from the Getty Library and there’s a big lawsuit going on between Getty and one of the image creator systems. The problem with that is what they’ve done is you can see in the AI version of the image. You could see a warped Getty watermark. They had to use that image as a basis for whatever they generated.
That’s where you could get into trouble from doing it but the great news is that when they all work it out and you finally get into somebody who has the rights to use their library and all of those things are worked out, one day, those are not copyrightable. You can’t infringe on somebody else by having a bot or an AI create your images for your image library, podcasts, and blogs or for any of those things. They’re not copyrightable by a human because they’re not created by humans.
The copyright and trademark offices do not allow us to copyright or trademark anything that is not created by a human being. That’s already the law. It’s been the law for quite some time. It’s not new. In that particular case, we won’t have as many copyright issues in the future, but if the library that’s generating it or the system that’s generating it is infringing, it still puts you at risk. Be cautious there. Add that one last copyright alert there.
It’s very useful, Tracy. I’m sure that many of our readers will appreciate that.
We’ll be back next time with another topic that is focused just on podcasters and videocasters who are trying to make more out of everything that they do. That is our absolute obsessive focus here. We eat, breathe, and live everything podcasting and everything in this. We’re always interested in what you are looking for answers for. Please reach out to us. Let us know what you would like us to cover in a future episode. Reach out to us anywhere on social media or go to the Podetize website and send us a message right through the website. We’d love to have you.
If you would like to check out all of our episodes, we have a fabulous ShowCastR player right on the Podetize website for you to catch all of the episodes of the show and see what we’ve been doing for the last few years for all of our clients. Sometimes we have tutorials we add, masterclass, and deep dives into things that we touch on here in our coaching calls that we are now turning out as shows as well. Thanks, everyone for reading. We appreciate you.
Thanks so much, Tracy. It’s very well said. We’ll leave it there. Thanks so much, everyone. We’ll see you next time.