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Respecting everyone's rights: Podcasts and copyrighted content

May 19, 2021
Copyright can sometimes be confusing to understand, so it's best to be informed about what audio you should leave out of your show

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There are many components that come together to create a good podcast episode: research, guest interviews, sound mixing and, sometimes, music to enrich the talk track. Adding music, whether it’s for the intro, outro music or somewhere in between, can elevate the sound of your podcast.

But do you have the right to use that clip? If not, you may be violating copyright laws. Copyright infringement is when you use someone else's copyrighted work without permission, and when no other exceptions would allow you to use the copyrighted work. We believe all creators should be fairly compensated for their work and control its use, so before adding someone else’s content to your podcast, it’s important to make sure your podcast is doing it the right way.

And just so you know, these rules don’t only apply to music. They also matter for other types of audio content, like news clips or audio from another source of media. All audio that you don’t own—not just music—needs to be approved for your specific use. If not, and you’re found to be in violation, your podcast content may get flagged by rights holders or subjected to a takedown. Nobody wants that. And this copyright protection applies to your audio, too. Other creators can’t use your work in their content unless they have your permission.

Spotify wants to help creators better understand the ever-evolving copyright landscape and provide the necessary tools and resources for rights holders to ensure they are fairly compensated and their content is protected. We recommend taking the time to review your new or existing content for any potential violations. If you find any clips that are cause for concern, you have a few options:

  • If your podcast is hosted with Spotify for Podcasters, replace the pieces in violation with tracks from Smart Background Music (within the app). We have pre-cleared the rights so you don’t need to worry about it.
  • License the music from the copyright owners (labels for sound recordings, publishers or collecting societies for compositions). If you already licensed the music, well done! 
  • If you’re in the United States or another eligible market, consider heading to Spotify’s free podcasting platform, Spotify for Podcasters, and creating a Music + Talk show. This format separates your talk tracks from music tracks. The music tracks are licensed by Spotify, which pays music creators as if they were normal streams on our music service.

Depending on where you are, there may be laws that allow you to use copyrighted materials without a license in certain situations. For example, in the US, the concept of “fair use” may protect certain uses such as “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research” (read more about US fair use law here, exceptions to copyright in EU countries here, and exceptions to UK copyright here). 

Looking for more information on copyright laws? Here are some links that share insight on regulations for different areas of the world:

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