Service offers legal tunes to podcasters

Copyright issues have been a perpetual problem for the nascent field of podcasting since its inception. Rules designed to protect music publishers and copyright holders often prevent podcasters from playing new music, or turn them into criminals if they do.

Adam Curry—one of the people most responsible for the podcasting explosion—and PodShow have launched a new website to help solve this issue. The PodSafe Music Network, just launched today, is designed to help podcasters access copyright-cleared content, and bands to promote their work.

The network provides music, interviews, and other elements for podcasters to create royalty-free, copyright-cleared podcasts. The site’s founders say it was designed to meet the growing demands of podcasters for access to music that can be used without copyright and broadcast restrictions imposed by the recording industry.

Although podcasting has taken off in terms of popularity, it remains something the music industry is wary of. In order to not cross the RIAA, ASCAP, and other unfriendly organizations with alphabet soup names, podcasters have to be careful to not use any songs in their programs that haven’t been cleared. Failure to do so will not only get podcasters in trouble with the RIAA, it can mean having your podcast yanked from venues such as San Francisco’s KYOU podcast radio station or Apple’s iTunes Music Store.

In its podcasting FAQ, Apple notes that it “will investigate the validity of complaints against a podcast and respond accordingly, removing offending podcasts if necessary.” In fact, each podcast page in its store has a link that allows users to report copyright violations.

“The hardest thing about podcasting is finding music you can legally play. It’s a lot of work to find quality programming,” says C.C. Chapman, producer of the popular PodShow podcast Accident Hash, who spoke to Playlist on behalf of PodSafe.

Podcasters can browse the site for bands, and listen to the music in their Web browsers, download it to their machines, and add it to on-site playlists for later access or so others can find it. After using a track in a show, podcasters can report that back to the network so that musicians can see where their music is being played. Listeners can also browse the site to find and download new music.

Yet the network is not designed exclusively for music programs. “We’ve got everything from music shows, to financial aid podcasts,” says Chapman. “ Senator [John] Edwards has even joined the network.”

The idea is already proving popular. Since its inception less than a month ago (prior to its official launch) some 600 bands have uploaded over 2,300 songs. Of those, at least 800 have been reported played by some of the network’s 1,300 podcasters. This is largely being driven by bands, according to Chapman.

“It’s the artist themselves who are coming in. We’re approaching the label carefully, but it’s the artists who are giving permissions from the songs they’re uploading,” says Chapman. “They realize the exposure they get across thousands of podcasts. The record labels have radio stations sewn up, but they haven’t got the podcasts.”

Mathew Honan is a San Francisco-based writer and photographer. His work has also appeared in Macworld, Wired, Time, and Salon.

For more on podcasting, please visit the podcasting topic page.

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