Starting a podcast is thrilling, but as it expands with new guests and co-hosts, legal issues can arise. Although it may be tempting to keep it informal with verbal agreements, it’s generally recommended to get any important contracts and deals in writing. If legalities make you uneasy, consult experienced business lawyers to guide you through.
Whether you seek professional guidance or go it alone, these are the four legal areas you’ll need to focus on:
1. Partnership agreements
If you’re running a solo podcast, you can set aside these concerns. However, when collaborating with a co-host to create engaging interviews, a partnership agreement is essential for clarifying the terms of your collaboration. This agreement might encompass the following:
- Specifying which decisions can be made independently and which require mutual agreement, such as guest selection, sponsorships, renaming, and rebranding.
- Defining each person’s responsibilities, including handling emails and managing social media.
- Addressing recording logistics, including the recording location, alternatives, minimum episodes per year, recording schedule, and contingency plans in case of illness.
- Outlining the procedures for one partner leaving the partnership, including the transfer of full ownership, copyright ownership, potential compensation for the departing partner, and how much that compensation should be.
2. Guest release forms
While some podcasts thrive as solo productions, the majority feature guest interviews. If your podcast falls into the latter category, obtaining a guest release form is crucial. Although the specifics will vary from one form to another, you should generally include the following:
- Explicit consent for recording the guest, even if it seems obvious.
- Permission to use the guest’s name, image, voice, and likeness in connection with your podcast. This includes your ability to edit or repackage their podcast appearance without needing prior approval.
- A release statement to protect you from liability for guest damages, reputation changes, or third-party claims stemming from the podcast.
3. Sponsorship agreements
Getting a brand (or three) to sponsor you is one of the most popular ways to monetize your podcast. If you decide to go that route, then a sponsorship agreement will be crucial. This agreement defines the terms of the relationship with your sponsor.
If the brand you’re working with sponsors a few podcasts, they might have ready-made contracts that tend to favor their interests over yours. So, read the fine print. Understand the terms, ask for clarification if you don’t, and seek any amendments you deem necessary before signing.
Key terms to pay attention to include:
- What exactly do you have to mention, how long does it have to be, and how many times do you have to mention it?
- Do you own the ads discussed on the podcast or does the brand?
- What rights do you have if the sponsorship is terminated?
- What is the payment schedule and how will you get paid?
4. Copyright laws
Knowing what creative works you’re allowed to use can help you avoid copyright infringement. Furthermore, knowing how others may use your work safeguards it from unauthorized duplication. Although copyright is a huge area of law unto itself, podcasters should be aware of a few basics:
- Original works are generally protected, but ideas and concepts are not.
- Before using any copyrighted material, you must contact the owner to ask for permission.
- You can protect your work by registering it with the relevant agency in your country.
Starting and growing a podcast can be a highly rewarding experience. To ensure you get to keep the majority of those rewards, pay attention to the legal agreements listed above. If your situation is a bit more complicated, don’t be afraid to reach out to legal experts for guidance.