Let’s be very, very clear. There is no legal way to include music in podcasts. Trust me. I’ve spoken to many, many people within the music industry and they’re all flummoxed as to how this can ever be possible.
Why? A couple of reasons.
- When an artist signs to a label, they give the label exclusive right to distribute their music. If a podcaster includes a song in a podcast–a downloadable form of media–that constitutes distribution and therefore violates the label’s right to exclusivity.
- Despite reports that nearly 20% of podcasts contain some kind of copyrighted music, there is no organization that (a) keeps track of music use in podcasts; and (b) can grant a blanket license to podcasters for legal use of music.
- And even if there were a way to keep track of music in podcasts and a way to pay for it, no one can agree on how much podcasters should pay.
- This also explains why so many podcasts only include short snippets of songs (my Ongoing History podcast included). Technically, we’re not supposed to do even that but given that there are millions of podcasters who are doing the same thing, it’s unlikely that any copyright holders will start some kind of crackdown. We hope.
It’s a mess. So much money is being left on the table for artists, labels, and publishers. What can be done?
Author and activist Corey Doctorow has a proposal that’s bound to get some reaction from the industry.
You can read the whole thing here, but these are the highlights:
- A blanket license for the internet to be run by a new music collective based on user numbers.
- “You pay the collecting society a monthly license fee that goes up with the number of users you have. If you have one user and Facebook has 2.5 billion users, then your license fee is 1/2,500,000,000 of Facebook’s fee.”
- 50% of all proceeds should go directly to the artists.
It may not be perfect, but I don’t see too many other people proposing solutions to this problem.