With the rapid growth of Podcasting it is possible for anyone with a PC, microphone, and a place to host their recorded programming to set up their own “radio” show. It is a fledgling field and the parameters are just being defined now with a few […]

With the rapid growth of Podcasting it is possible for anyone with a PC, microphone, and a place to host their recorded programming to set up their own “radio” show. It is a fledgling field and the parameters are just being defined now with a few innovative bloggers taking the lead. I think a number of issues affecting Podcasting are going to raise their ugly heads sooner rather than later. A lot of Podcasts I listen to are using really nice background music and I’ll bet a some of it is copyrighted material. I predict we will see some nasty legal battles that end up shutting down some bloggers who are dabbling in Podcasting. It is not a straightforward issue and sure to divide the community into sides, as these issues usually do. I guess the basic truth is that copyrighted material is owned by the copyright holder and their permission must be obtained before using this stuff. No doubt a lot of people will argue that the Podcasters are just little guys and hobbyists and they should be allowed to use this copyrighted music (or other material). The fact will probably come out that some of these Podcasters do in fact do this for money (in the form of advertising or the like) and the issue will get even muddier and messier. Keep an eye out for this- I am predicting this will get nasty.Another issue I think will also create controversy pretty quickly is advertising in Podcasts. The cost of bandwidth for Podcasters is not trivial with a lot of the programs running in the tens of megabytes in size and this is going to put a lot of pressure on the biggest Podcasts to start accepting advertising. What is not clear at this point is how listeners will react to recorded ads in Podcasts and how intrusive they will be. We often see that public reaction to charging for anything on the Internet is often negative so we will see where this goes.The other thing we must watch out for as Podcasting becomes more mainstream is regulation. Right now it is a totally gray area if Podcasts will end up being regulated like radio programs. Let’s face it, regulation pretty much killed off Internet radio and Podcasts are really no different. It will probably take that first landmark case to crop up to determine how the legal issues will play out. This may happen much sooner than we think as mainstream media is not only taking notice but likely to scream bloody murder if Podcasts end up with less regulation than they broadcast under.It will be interesting to keep an eye on Podcasting to see how these things play out. Podcasts are cool- they are just new media and this is a territory that must be defined on the fly.

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  1. I’ve just recently started listening to Podcasts, and I agree with your point about legal issues of copyrighted content.

    About regulation: I am not a lawyer (IANAL), but IMO, a MP3 recording (unlike streaming internet radio) is not a broadcast, so I can’t really see how these could be regulated. If I were to dictate an email to you (and CC it to a bunch of other people), record it to MP3 and post a link for downloading the MP3 file instead of hitting the “send” button and sending it off as text-only, how would that be any different than recording a “Podcast”?

    Brian G.

  2. I think the gray area that’s going to pop up is not the recording and maybe not even the listening. It’s the distribution. That makes it a broadcast of sorts. At least, I think that will be the argument.

  3. jk,

    I understand your point and playing devil’s advocate to a certain degree by making the connection between distribution and broadcasting, but I think that is really a stretch. IMO Podcasting is really no different that Audible.com’s distribution of ebooks: Pre-recorderd spoken word content that is distributed through an on-demand or automated download service. It is not a broadcast or streamed however, a critical distinction.

    Doc Searls recently posted an interesting article “Why podcasting isn’t radio” in his blog http://garage.docsearls.com/node/view/469. The point was raised that the “casting” part of Podcasting and how misinterpretation and misunderstanding of a perceived threat of Podcasting to traditional broadcast outlets could bring undue scrutiny and calls for regulation. That would really be a shame and disgrace.

    IMO tight regulation of the airwaves combined with innovation and the internet bringing people together in ways never before possible are causing this paradigm shift towards alternate outlets for free speech, two examples being Podcasting and satellite radio. This “Podcasting Revolution” is in addition to, and really just an extension of, several other social revolutions caused by the internet and mobile technology (flashmobs/smartmobs, blogging, usergroup communties etc).

  4. I agree with you 100% but I think this is the argument that will be made. We just need to be ready for it.

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