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Making the Right Decisions

Unlike other forms of radio broadcasting, podcasting per se is not subject to direct censorship or regulatory control. This is part of its attraction. However, there are pitfalls for the unwary.

Just like any other form of published media, content on the Internet is subject to copyright, associated terms of use and other laws such as defamation. The loss of royalties and flouting of copyright made headline news with the illegal downloading of music via MP3 files only a few years ago.

The laws covering copyright, offensive material and libel are complex. Schools, like individuals, must take steps to ensure that published podcasts do not infringe any existing copyright and that the content cannot be considered offensive or libelous. A discussion on this topic could easily form part of a wider debate around citizenship in a PSHE lesson for example.

Here is the kind of scenario where copyright issues quickly emerge:
 

Having created the "host" audio track" for your podcast, you want to add a jingle using extracts from your favourite artist or band, or use a song as a background track.


For this, and most other scenarios, there are only a few sensible options available:

Arrange for a music licence (covers the performance rights and royalties);

  • Use royalty free music (carefully check the conditions of use);
     
  • Create your own, original music (this is your own copyright).
     

BMI, the American performing rights organisation, has announced licensing for music in podcasts. Also, music.podshow.com have produced a really useful website for podcasters who wish to locate podsafe music that various artists have uploaded for use in podcasts. There is a range of musical genre to choose from.

Be aware that ISPs (Internet Service Providers) are very keen to ensure that they are not liable to prosecution as result of illegal use or offensive material. The storage of illegal MP3 files on their web servers has made ISPs much more sensitive and they will have made sure that respective responsibilities and liabilities have been set out in their terms and conditions.

In most cases these are also published on your ISP website. It is always worth reading such terms and conditions carefully to ensure that all eventualities are covered. Often these terms and conditions are updated to reflect case law as well as the advent of new technologies.
 

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