8 Tips to Get Your Podcast Legit - Guest Post: Brittany Ratelle, Attorney for Creatives & Host of the Law & Wit Podcast

Ya’ll I am beyond excited about today’s guest post from Brittany Ratelle, attorney for creatives and host of the Law & Wit Podcast. Brittany is one of my favorite people to follow on Instagram, and I am so excited to have connected with her! If you don’t stick around for her legal tips, then you’ll at least want to stick around for her pop culture references and creativity! But really, Brittany is bringing you invaluable content today as she shares steps you can take to get your podcast legally legit! Whether you’re a hobby podcaster or you’re already promoting your business with your podcast you’ll want to read Brittany’s tips, and be sure to grab the 8 Ways to Get Your Podcast Legit handout!

8 Tips to Get Your Podcast Legit

Podcasting is so HOT right now, but if you want to be a bit more savvy than Derek Zoolander trying to find the files “in” the computer, then let’s look at the eight tips you need to make your podcast legally legit and into a real business asset.

Right from the start, it is a good strategy to treat your podcast as a business. Keep records. Use contracts. Track your time and your expenses and be THOUGHTFUL about what you are sending out over those airwaves (more on that below). Even if your podcast is a hobby/passion project -- sometimes those interests have a way of turning into real businesses and you will be kicking yourself for not being organized from the get-go. Regardless of whether your podcast is a content creation tool to drive traffic to your offerings, or whether it is monetized in other ways through ads, affiliate sales, or patronage -- make sure the time you invest (your GREATEST asset) is well-spent and that you are being intentional with your resources.

1. Display a copyright notice in footer of episode page/show notes/podcast handout.

Your episodes will be protected by the common law provisions of United States copyright law as soon as they are created. However, it's a great idea to put people on notice that you are reserving all of the rights to your materials, including any freebies/handouts, text, or images that accompany your audio. Copyright notice example: “YOUR COMPANY, LLC © 2019. All Rights Reserved.” Keep in mind that you get extra benefits if you actually register your content (as in your episodes or materials) with the US Copyright office which will make it easier for you to actually stop someone who is ripping off your content. You can start that process for podcasts here , and know that you may be able to group multiple episodes in a “collection” if they were published within the same three-month period.

2. Don’t use copyrighted material without written permission.

And here comes the bubble-popping attorney...wah...wahhhhhhh. I know this is tough one to hear, because we all love great music. I mean, I am already embarrassing my kids at intersections with my minivan singing sessions….BUT...as content creators ourselves we REALLY need to respect copyright law and be educators in this space. You need to understand that you are not allowed to use any copyrighted/commercial music, movie clips, soundbytes, media, etc. without a proper license. You don’t get to use 60 seconds. You don’t get to use 30 seconds. You don’t get to use it PERIOD. Will you always get caught if you do it? Probably not. But, it’s a silly risk-to-reward payoff and you can support some amazing musicians in the proper way with alternative methods. If you really want to use commercial music,  you need to secure rights to the musical composition, the right to perform it AND the right to reproduce the sound recording. Sounds expensive and hard, right? Yup. All the way around. So other options:

  • make friends with some royalty-free libraries (and make sure the website is legitimate. If it sounds too good to be true that this song is “royalty-free” -- then pass. Some files get scraped and shared on these sites and they won’t be caught until they make it into your content and then BAM -- you get a cease and desist letter asking for statutory damages (can be between $750 and $30,000 for EACH infringed work!! Yikes!!)

  • Use stock music libraries. Make sure you understand your license and whether you need a personal or commercial use, (probably safer to get commercial license if you ever plan on monetizing or your podcast supports a business) one-time use (for a single episode) or unlimited use (e.g. for intro/outro music). I like *Pleasant Pictures Music Club for fresh, modern music. (*an awesome client of mine).

3. Use a Guest Release Agreement.  

This contract (which you can easily send through a CRM tool like Dubsado, 17 Hats, Honeybook, or through an e-sign service like Hellosign should have a release of the guest’s name, likeness, audio/video, for use on all platforms and across all media formats to give you the flexibility to adapt your podcast content down the road. What if you want a “best of” compilation episode? What if you turn the best sound bytes into a Youtube video or want to share them on social media content? Don’t close doors on what you can repurpose your amazing content into by being lazy here. Save that signed copy in the relevant episode folder and MOVE ON.

4. Watch out for “bad blood”...aka defamation/libel/slander.

Whether you’re doing a solo show or hosting a guest, be aware of any statements that may be considered defamatory to companies or individuals. I know what you’re thinking, “I watched Schoolhouse Rock...what about free speech??”. Yes -- you do have your fifth amendment right to free speech, meaning free of governmental interference -- but that doesn’t mean that people can’t get mad and sue you. You do not have right to say anything, about anyone, if those words can harm them, including their business or their reputation -- especially if they are false. You get more grace against “public figures”, and you can always use the truth as a defense, but it can cost you a lot of money to pull out that TRUTH defense out of your backpocket and share it in court. You can still discuss controversial things, issues, news, etc. on you podcast if you follow these tips:

  • Try to avoid personally identifying someone (especially a non-public figure/regular citizen) who hasn’t done anything to stir up media attention

  • Make it clear that your words are your own opinion. Disclaimer example: “The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are only those of the host and/or guest and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. These views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any given time.”

  • Avoid language that suggest moral/legal conclusions of wrongdoing like “fraud, scam, hoax, ripped-off, stole.” Stick to the facts. Someone was charged with _____ . Someone stated ____. Someone posted ______.

  • If you talk about a lot of controversial content, perhaps educate yourself further with some resources: Anti-defamation Tips, Libel legal guide, Online Libel guide.

5. Trademark your podcast name.

If you would be sad if someone launched a podcast with the same or really-close name, then get it locked down NOW. Like Beyonce says, if you like it, then you better put a ring on it (clearly she was referring to the Trademark ® ring -- I mean, the Queen B isn’t bossy..remember...she’s the BOSS.) You can DIY or hire an attorney (like me!), but make sure you do a thorough search and are strategic in how your register your name so you can expand to other offerings as much as possible (e.g. in person events, webinar, books, speaking, online course in the same space if you have those goals).

6. Get a co-host/partnership agreement in writing.

If you are in this with someone else, then they probably have some rights to the content too, including the audio/linked written content/intellectual property, etc. in the podcast, so you need to work out roles, responsibility, and money for richer or poorer, in sickness and in good health. (Seriously -- business divorces can get UGLY -- and these conversations are much less awkward when you can do them when everyone is still in the excited honeymoon phase!). Get that podcast prenup squared away and make sure you address what will happens when someone exits.

7. Secure the rights to podcast content ( artwork, show notes, teasers videos or graphics).  

If you have anyone helping with this content, make sure you have something in writing such as a independent contractor agreement or copyright assignment that clarifies who has the rights to the content and will address issues like confidentiality, non-competition clauses, and compensation details (especially if you have any revenue-sharing or incentive structure). Without something in writing, the person who created a THING owns the right to that thing. If that’s not your understanding -- then you need some work-for-hire language or assignment language to say otherwise.  

8. Monetize like a boss with a legit contract and proper FTC disclosures.

You should use a professional contract when working with sponsors/advertising partners. If you want to monetize your podcast and want to land a legit contract with a larger brand or agency -- then you need to look and act the part, which includes having a professional agreement to outline the relationship and protect both parties. A good agreement will cover compensation, proper FTC disclosures, confidentiality, deliverables, and intellectual property rights to the content. If you have a material connection with anyone who you are promoting on your podcast -- then you need to disclose that relationship in a clear and conspicuous way. You can say “ad”, “sponsored” or use natural language that explains what is going on -- but don’t be cute or coy here to try and hide promotional/advertising material. This is how you make your money and you should feel ZERO shame about getting paid to solve your audience’s problems. Be authentic and transparent with your community and pick sponsorship opportunities that fit your content and brand.

Ok! I threw a lot at you here, but as I tell all of my students, listeners, and clients, you do not have to be overwhelmed by this stuff. You can tackle these steps, one at a time, just like What About Bob, and know that you simply know more than you did before. Now get out there and share your LEGIT podcast with the world!

Brittany Ratelle - 8 Tips to Get Your Podcast Legit

About Brittany

Brittany Ratelle is an attorney for creative entrepreneurs who helps women become more confident business owners. She works one-on-one with successful clients like Alison Faulkner (@thealisonshow) to the Bucket List Family (@bucketlistfamily) to draft and review contracts, and protect their growing brands through copyrights and trademarks. She also sells DIY legal templates in her online shop at Creativecontracts.co. With a background in PR, marketing, and law, Brittany helps modern creative brands navigate the digital landscape without losing their minds or sense of humor. She believes in the power of cute office supplies AND good contracts and hosts a weekly podcast, Law & Wit: Creative Counsel for Entrepreneurs, with business tips and inspiring founder stories from successful creative entrepreneurs. Brittany lives with her husband and four kiddos in her beautiful hometown of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and loves to rock out in her minivan, knit, sew, ski, and issue empty threats to her sewing machine. You can connect with her on her site at brittanyratelle.com, or on Instagram at @brittanyratelle.