Blog & Video

09 . 05 | Influencer Law

I am a Podcaster in California… Do I Need a Lawyer?

 Generally defined as the creation of digital audio or video files or recordings that audiences can access on compatible devices, it is far from a fleeting trend. In fact, its origins can be traced to the late 20th century and “Internet radio.” Then “audio blogging” came along.  The term “podcast” entered the common vernacular shortly thereafter, and the activity has enjoyed ongoing popularity since.

By 2016, podcasting established itself as a bona fide alternative to traditional media.  Today it is still all the rage among creators and audiences.  Global statistics indicate that audiences now have access to approximately 2 million podcasts and nearly 50 million episodes. Genres range from music of all types to politics, sports, and more.

While this has clearly opened the door for hobbyists, established businesses and entrepreneurs, it also begs a question. As a Los Angeles-based podcaster, do I need a lawyer?

Better safe than sorry…

If you’re just starting out as a podcaster, or if you’re just making podcasts for fun, you may not think you can afford to talk to a lawyer, much less keep one on retainer. Believe it or not, we get it. But think about all of the headaches you can avoid, and money you can potentially save by getting sound legal advice from the beginning.
Here are some of the legal issues relevant to podcasting that we can help you work through.

Intellectual property matters

In a legal context, intellectual property is a broad term used for intangible human creations. Intellectual property laws are the rules and regulations that govern their use and protect them from misuse.  These protections are generally classified as copyright, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets.  

Without sound legal advice, you may run afoul of these laws. For example, you could inadvertently violate trademark law by using a podcast name that is already in use – or one that could be easily confused with one that is already in use. The same thing could happen if you use a logo, word, phrase, or sound or any other “source identifier” without doing preliminary research and/or consulting an experienced attorney.

Then there’s copyrighted material. This could be song lyrics, a photograph, or even a snippet from a TV show or movie. Be sure to get permission, or a license to use it before you put it on your podcast. This is the only way to be sure you aren’t accused of wrongful use, or infringement.  If you aren’t sure how to get permission, or a license, we can help. Our social influencer and podcast lawyers can also answer your questions about “fair use,” or any related matters.

Writing and reviewing the ‘fine print’ for your website

Do you use a website to promote your podcast? Are you planning on creating one for that purpose? If the answer to either question is “yes,” you may want to talk to an attorney about crafting the privacy policy and/or terms and conditions for the site.  If you crafted these on your own using a template, or if someone else did that for you, we can also review existing language to make sure it is on point.

This is especially important if you are based here in California. Our state laws mandate that any website that collects a visitor’s personal information, such as their name or contact information includes a privacy policy that all users can find easily.

Take our website for example. Our practice is based in Los Angeles. Because we invite you to join our email list, and ask for your name and points of contact (including your email address) on our contact page, our website must have a privacy policy. That policy must clearly state which data we collect – including information from your computer and information you supply. It must also state how we use it, and how we protect it. You can find our privacy policy by clicking on the link at the bottom of any page on our website.

Even though it isn’t legally mandated, including terms and conditions on your website can come in handy. This is a good idea if you want to take extra steps to safeguard your content. It is also a good idea if you want to limit liability by including disclaimers. These are usually stipulations that the information on your site should not be construed as advice.

Disclosures, disclosures, disclosures…

If you’ve read any of our articles for social media influencers, you’ll know the importance of making proper disclosures. But did you know that podcasters must play by the same rules?

Specifically, you must let your audience (listeners, viewers or both) know there is a relationship between you and the brands you are promoting. Furthermore, you must do so in a manner that leaves no room for doubt about the authenticity of these relationships. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) mandates that “all paid sponsorships be clearly and conspicuously disclosed.”

What does this mean? Basically, any written disclosures must be in “plain English” and presented in a manner that distinguishes them from other text. This is true whether you include them in your “show notes,” or in any other material associated with your podcast. Another important point worth making here is that your audience must be able to find them easily. Avoid the temptation to bury them in fine print or anywhere else someone is unlikely to look.

If there is a visual component to your podcast, any relevant disclosures must appear for a duration that facilitates audience comprehension. For audio podcasts, simply read each disclosure slowly and clearly.

The podcast law team here at the Law Office of Parag L. Amin, P.C., (“LawPLA”) can help you make sure your disclosures meet FTC standards so you don’t run afoul of the rules.

In summary

If you have a podcast, it is prudent to consult an attorney who can help you recognize, understand and avoid the potential for defamation lawsuits and other common issues of concern. In addition to the legal matters we have detailed here, we can also help you draft any relevant contracts.  To get started, simply fill out the contact form on our website, or call one of our Los Angeles offices to schedule a consultation.

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