Podcasts- Legal Issues

If your podcast all your own work, you will own the copyright in the podcast. Many people however, who create podcasts do not realise that they require the consent of the owner of the copyright in any third party material which they include in their podcast. A typical example of this is by using samples of recorded music without the requisite licence in place.

There are some sources of royalty-free music for podcasting that may not require the licences but if you’re looking for well-known music, you are unlikely to find it in these source. Music licensing is a mature business and so provided the current fee to the appropriate rights holder then you should be able to use whatever music you like.

The Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) and the Performing Right Society (PRS) offer a licensing scheme which allows podcasters to use the global repertoire of musical works, managed by MCPS and PRS. The MCPS and PRS represent almost all the major recording artists and can grant the necessary writer/publisher permissions for inclusion of their works in the podcast.


the Joint Podcast Licence (JPL), which is aimed at medium to large podcasters and

the Limited Online Exploitation Licence (LOPL), designed for smaller scale, non-commercial podcasters.

The appropriate licence depends on the amount of revenue you expect to make from your podcasts (such as from making a charge to listeners or through advertising, sponsorship etc.), and also the number of works that are expected to be downloaded in a year (for instance, 100 downloads of a podcast containing 5 works would constitute 500 downloads).

If you expect the service to make more than £6,250 (net of VAT) in revenue each year or expect 340,000 or more downloaded works in total in a year, you should consider the JPL. Under the JPL at the current rates you will need to pay a royalty which would be the greater of the following:

8% of the gross revenue (net of VAT) which is generated by the licensed services or

£0.15 minimum for each track (or part of a track) which is downloaded.


If you expect to make less than £6,250 (net of VAT) in gross revenue per annum and expect fewer than 340,000 downloaded works in a year, you should consider the LOPL. Under this licence at the current rates you will pay the following yearly amounts (which are inclusive of VAT):

£120 for less than 68,000 downloaded works per year

£240 for less than 136,000 downloaded works per year or

£600 for less than 340,000 downloaded works per year.

Fees will be pro-rated for services operating for part of the year, subject to a minimum licence fee of £60 (including VAT).

There are conditions attached to both licences about the use of music within the podcast.

For the recording rights, there is no equivalent licence. PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited), which licenses recorded music for other uses (including public performance, radio and TV broadcasting and internet radio) has not, until recently, licensed music for podcasting. However, the only licensing currently available is for commercial radio station broadcasters to enable them to use 30 second clips in radio programme downloads. For other types of podcasting (and/or the use of full length recordings), PPL will refer you to deal directly with the relevant record company.

So, in most cases, for each piece of music you wish to use in a podcast you will need to identify the record company and negotiate a right to use the piece. This makes the use of popular music in podcasting unrealistic for many organisations.

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