How Podcasters Can Legally Protect Themselves: An Interview with Attorney Merlyne Jean-Louis, Esq.
The information provided in this interview is to only be used for informational purposes, does not constitute legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.
Are you aware of the legal issues that podcasters may face? Well, we had the opportunity to chat with Merlyne Jean-Louis, Esq., a business and entertainment lawyer, about just that. In this interview, Merlyne Jean-Louis shares some of the important ways podcasters can legally protect themselves.
1. When getting started, what are some simple ways podcasters can legally protect themselves?
One way to protect yourself is to form an entity. If you’re running a podcast, you deal with intellectual property (particular works related to copyright and trademark law). And these areas of law are quite litigious. If someone sued you and you didn’t have an entity, they could come after your personal assets (ex. house or car). The most common types of entities are corporations and LLCs.
2. What is the biggest preventable mistake you see podcasters making these days?
One major mistake is discussing your podcast ideas with too many people. An idea usually is not protected by intellectual property law. However, contract law could be used to hinder someone from “stealing” your idea. If you must share your idea with others, it is a good idea to have a tailored non-disclosure agreement on hand.
3. Can podcasters legally use mainstream music clips in their episodes? How about if they are making commentary on the music clip?
Yes, podcasters can legally use mainstream music clips in their episodes if they obtain the licenses from the appropriate parties.
Regarding your commentary question, that relates to fair use, which is a defense against copyright infringement permitted under the Copyright Act. I won’t get too much into it (it can get rather complex), but it’s an analysis that requires the balancing of four different factors.
Providing commentary has sometimes been deemed to be a successful fair use defense. To reiterate, fair use is a defense. To claim it, a copyright lawsuit would have had to been brought against you. We don’t want this…at all!
If cost is an issue in obtaining licenses, consider using music licensed under a Creative Commons license.
4. Are podcast guest agreements necessary? Why?
Absolutely! One reason is that they hedge risk. If guests completely understand what they are giving up or gaining to be featured on a podcast, they are less likely to sue you. Second, these agreements could increase the value of your company. If you ever wanted to sell your podcast, the buying party would want to see agreements like release agreements in its due diligence.
5. When do you know it’s time to hire an attorney?
You may never know lol. I think speaking to an attorney at any point during your podcast journey is beneficial. An attorney could provide a lot of information and guidance that could save you a lot of time, energy, and money. For example, an attorney can help you choose a podcast title. I’d hate for someone to choose one only to have to change it years later because it infringes upon someone’s else trademark.
6. What services do you provide and how do you help podcasters?
I help podcasters become CEOs. If you are operating a podcast, you are operating a business. My job is to help you efficiently and effectively run that business. I do that by providing a variety of services, including those related to entity formation, trademarks, copyright, and contract review/drafting.
7. What is the best way to get in contact with you?
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 347-946-0597.
I am also available on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Also, feel free to visit my firm’s website.
Do you have a service that you want to share with the WOC Podcasters community? Contact us here.
Danielle Desir Corbett is a podcast marketing coach, founder of WOC Podcasters, and host of The Thought Card, an award-winning, 4x grant-funded personal finance, and travel podcast empowering financially savvy travelers to travel more and build wealth. Go here to learn Danielle’s incredible story — how following her creative passion led to her becoming a six-figure creative entrepreneur. If you want to reach out to Danielle, contact: info (at) danielledesir (dot) com.