1. The exclusive right to make copies, license, and otherwise exploit a literary, musical, or artistic work, whether printed, audio, video, etc.: works granted such right by law on or after January 1, 1978, are protected for the lifetime of the author or creator and for a period of 70 years after his or her death.
2. of or relating to copyrights. 3. Also cop·y·right·ed. protected by copyright.
Verb (used with object)
4. to secure a copyright on.
What is copyright?
Simply put, copyright protects a creator's creative work. It stops someone else from reproducing your original expression of an idea. If you create a podcast, movie, sculpture, song, photograph, painting, drawing, stage show, book or any other creative work and write it, perform it, record it, sculpt it, photograph it, paint it or draw it. Then that creative work would be protected under copyright law. Once you are the copyright owner and holder (you've made your idea a tangible or digital product), by law you have the exclusive right to use the original work how ever you want. if someone else, who doesn't own the copyright, steals your creative work and uses it either on it's own or as a part of new creative work, weather money is involved or not, they would be actively participating in piracy (copyright infringement). As the copyright owner, if you find out and decide to take action, the person who has stolen your work could be sued for copyright infringement.
Although not required, registering for copyright with the government is a way to further reinforce the protection of your content. Yes, you are granted by law copyright as soon as your creative work is transferred from an idea into a perceivable, tangible or digital work. But when you need to flex your rights, the only true way to be compensated for the theft of your work is to register a copyright. Don't be fooled by by the "poor people's copyright" where you create a hardcopy of your work and mail it to yourself. You can read more on this by checking out Lily Hay Newman's article on Slate.com
How does copyright apply to your podcast?
1. Your podcast episode, once recorded, will be protected under copyright law. 2. You are not allowed to use someone else's creative work in your podcast.
It's useful to make note that an idea is not protected under copyright law. A creative expression of the idea must be solidified. For example, to have the idea to create a podcast on the topic of health and lifestyle is not protected. But the content of each recorded episode of your health and lifestyle podcast is protected. Your episode doesn't even have to be posted any where. The fact that it has been recorded grants you as the copyright holder. If someone else recreates your podcast word for word or takes clips straight from an episode and uses those clips in their own episode, that would be copyright infringement. Also, use of any artwork or branding whether audio or graphical is off limits also.
On the other hand, not only are you not allowed to use someone else's content from their podcast. You also aren't allowed to use content from movies, songs, artwork, recordings, literary works, TV shows, documentaries, news articles, magazines, radio, stage plays or any other creative idea that has been transferred into a creative expression of work. That means that if you want to use your favorite song by your favorite artist as the intro music of your podcast, you would have to pay the original creator of that song for a license granting you the right to use it. Or, if you'd like create a podcast where you read your favorite chapters of your favorite books aloud, you would first have to pay the original creator of that book for a license granting you the right to record yourself reading it aloud word for word for a public broadcast. You get the point.
You can however create a podcast where you summarize and discuss your favorite book in your own words. This is not considered copyright infringement. You aren't recreating that authors expression of idea word for word. You're forming your own thoughts and ideas and expressing them as new creative work in your own words. Now, your new podcast episode that has been created based on your summarization of your favorite book in your words and ideas is protected under copyright law.
What Is Fair Use
Fair use is set of rules in United States law that allows copyrighted work to be used without obtaining permission from the copyright holder. Examples of fair use are commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, and scholarship. Fair use provides for the legal, unlicensed use of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor test:
1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
2. The nature of the copyrighted work;
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
For example, if you host a podcast where you review movies and you use a clip from a movie. That movie clip would be covered under copyright. However if you use the clip for the reason to criticize that movie, in your own words, you might be covered under fair use law to use the clip from the movie.
Fair use doesn't give you the right to use copyrighted work whenever you want. Because Fair Use is very hard to determine, and can be misconstrued easily, be sure to consult a lawyer if you are planning on starting a podcast where you'd like to use copyrighted material for topics where fair use comes into play.
What If You Want To Use Music, Artwork Or Other Creative Works In Your Podcast?
You have options if you want to use other people's creative works. Most of the time you'll have to pay to use a song or artwork, but there are affordable places to look.
Other options for music would be to contact an independent composer and commission them to write your podcast music for you. Prices for this will vary depending on the prices the composer sets. Also, keep in mind that if you want them to compose your song exclusively for you they might charge a fee for an exclusive royalty free buyout license. This could drive the price up because it will prevent the composer from reselling the song to anyone one else to make more money (even if they are still the copyright owner). If you choose to buy a non exclusive royalty free license, there's a chance you might hear your podcast's intro song somewhere else because the composer maintains the right to use their work however they please.
You can also create a custom made intro complete with music and a voice over artist to read your script. in this case even though you are the copyright owner of the content of your script, the voice over artist owns the recording and you are paying to use it. Similar to a royalty free license.
Copyright is not something to take lightly. If you are starting a podcast It is worth it to educate yourself on copyright and it applies to your work. Podcasting is new medium and the rules are slowly being set. The large record labels are aware that podcasters could be illegally using music in their podcasts and starting to crack down to ensure their artist's work is protected. Always consult a lawyer when you are unsure if you might be committing copyright infringement. Also, don't forget that your work is protected as well. if you suspect someone has stolen your work you have a right to investigate.