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Podcasts And Copyrights

Nov 28, 2007
If you own a brick and mortar business and you play music over the speaker system in your business you are subject to broadcasting (or rebroadcasting) rules that provide for a payment to music licensing companies like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. If you subscribe to a music service they may have that fee built into the monthly service agreement.

If you play music over your phone system when a customer is on hold you may be subject to payment of rebroadcasting fees.

Radio stations have had to pay these fees for years, but when companies began to broadcast on the web via online podcasts the subject was initially a very gray area.

The music licensing companies felt that the use of music via the web constituted a broadcast of music that should rightfully be subjected to some form of licensing payment.

The subject was disputed for a long time. Broadcasters felt they should not be subjected to more fees since their online rebroadcast simply represented a courtesy to existing listeners and did not generally result in additional revenue.

Inevitably the fees were put in place and broadcasters were made to pay an additional fee for rebroadcasting their radio signals.

By this time they were joined by Internet only radio stations and personally produced music-based podcasts. For many of these content producers the joy of broadcasting was simply organic. These individuals learned to produce segments of personally preferred music and place it in a downloadable podcast or audio stream.

What started as a hobby-based pastime has turned into a significant cottage industry. Today multiplied thousands of amateur and professional audio producers are adding podcasts to their website and finding a growing fan base.

Music licensing companies are getting their share of this new growth by demanding music licensing fees from online content producers who use music that is licensed.

For instance a talk only podcast would not be subject to additional fees while a music intense podcast would. The difference is that in the talk only format there is no audio that is licensed by another individual whereas in a music intense podcast there would be.

The fees are based on the total amount of time spent listening (TSL). If your podcast is not drawing huge numbers of listeners the fee will likely be manageable, but any audio streams that receive substantial listenership could cost the podcast originators significant fees. If marketed correctly with a product to buy growing listenership should result in growing sales. This scenario should help offset growing fees.

This can be problematic if you have no means of producing revenue from the podcast to help manage licensing fees.

I suppose one of the negatives of this regulation is that it can sometimes take the enjoyment out of something that was meant to be fun.

In 2007 escalated rate increases were announced and later reduced on a temporary basis. Internet based audio broadcasters and podcasters are hopeful for a long-term solution because the potential for site impact using audio podcasting is significant.
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