Podcasters Beware of Signing Your Rights Away



By Barry Kantz, Attorney. Barry is a shareholder and general counsel for Rawvoice, Inc

Early one morning, with a little time on my hands, I was casually reading through the terms of service for a new company offering services to podcasters. You know, one of those companies that claim to take you from a podcasting idea to a professionally produced podcast in three simple steps. I’m going to keep the company’s name to myself and simply call them ROA, short for Rip-Off Artists. A simple Google search will locate this company and companies like them if you want to identify them.

I’ve been podcasting since early 2005 and I’m an attorney so I get my kicks by reading boring legal documents and by producing a podcast that hopefully brings valuable information to my niche audience. Unfortunately, during the many years of my love affair with podcasting, I’ve seen too many rip-offs pop up in the podcasting space.

ROA’s terms of service says, in a nutshell, that any material you submit to them is owned by them and owned by them forever. I wasn’t surprised when I read this in ROA’s terms of service because I’ve seen this way too often. However, what does surprise me is why anyone would sign up to submit their content to a company that is taking away all their ownership rights.

Damn folks, listen up here! You are giving away all of your hard work. You know, all that time you put into developing your show’s topics, the branding attached to your show, the time you invest in creating each episode and in scheduling guests on your show; all of that and more is up in smoke. And, to make the screw bite even a little deeper, you’re paying ROA $197 a year to use their services. Exactly who is using who here?

Now let’s say that you’ve just scored a big advertising deal for your show and you’re as tickled as a puppy in tall grass. Your show with the new ad is now published and a few hours later you receive a call from ROA. The nice man from ROA says they want you to send them the checks, the full amount, for the ad deal you just scored. “A cold day in hell,” you say. The nice man from ROA explains you have an agreement with them, remember those terms of service? And he explains that ROA owns your show, and the rights to those ad dollars, since you produced your content using ROA’s service. Now do you remember those terms of service? No? You probably didn’t read them did you?

Now you’re thinking that you will simply quit using the services from ROA, essentially ending the contract, terminating those terms of service, and go about your merry way, producing content, obtaining ad deals and living happily ever after. Sorry, ROA’s terms of service continue on to infinity, “even if this agreement is later terminated.”

So what’s a gal or guy to do? The simple answer is to start all over again with a new show: a new name, new taglines, a new logo, new bumper music, new everything. I mean everything, even if you only used ROA’s service to produce one show. A few of us grizzled podcasting veterans can point to a few shows who had to start over because they agreed to give up the ownership of their show to a rip-off artist.

The easy, and recommended solution for this problem is to read the terms of service, or have your attorney read them if you become narcoleptic while reading legal documents. Do this before, with the emphasis on before, you use any services related to your podcast. My philosophy is you own what you produce and I believe it should be your philosophy, too. Take the time to protect what you own.

Barry Kantz is an attorney who drafts terms of service, user agreements and privacy statements, as well as other business related legal documents. Barry is a shareholder and general counsel for Rawvoice Inc., a competitor with some very reputable podcast service companies as well as a competitor with some rip off artists.

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12 thoughts on “Podcasters Beware of Signing Your Rights Away

  1. Even though that doesn’t surprise me, fortunately does not apply to me.

    However, there are other things to lookout for. Keywords used in advertising products and services on the internet like “unlimited” and “30 day refund” should sound off alarms. It’s only unlimited if you don’t hit the data cap; oops, what? Data cap? Yup. Don’t think you can just move your whopping size podcast over cause they are selling you a bill of goods. They’ll cut you off and tell you need to upgrade your plan. (I’m not saying “who” but they ain’t hard to find).

    So what’s up with 30 day refund. Sounds good if I don’t like the service. Ah yes, the refund is actually a credit back to the account you created with this company that you decided you didn’t like after all and signed up with because of the promise of a refund in 30 days. Get it? It’s credit; they keep the money unless you stay with them, otherwise your SOL.

    These are just two of the “buyer beware” instances I’ve come across in the last 30 days and is prevalent in the “hosting” realm of the internet (podcasting, website, etc.).

    My suggestion; always use your bank Visa debit card, which is preferable to PayPal. Your bank has your back, PayPal not so much when it comes to “intangible” services. Better yet, read the fine print first and don’t fall for the gimmicks.

  2. Why not publish the name of this rip off and help the podcasting community. I have just started podcasting and would love to know if it is my company that you are referring to. Thanks.

    1. We would prefer that you take the time and review the terms of service of companies you are working with, and make sure that your interests are protected. Companies can change their terms of service through customer pressure and articles like this. We would hope ROA would make the changes needed to their TOS to be a good player in the space without us having to name them by name.

  3. Thank you for calling our companies like this that have scummy business practices. I would like to know who they are though. Not that I would use them but the outright theft of copyright infuriates me and no one should have to go through the ordeal of having to start over.

  4. Hmm… a lawyer…do not want any risk of getting sued himself, so he prefers to play it safe…
    …but in my opinion, if you can not stand behind your words, then do not hint/insinuate/etc…
    It does not make RawVoice look good either…

    Just my humble thoughts.

    Ps. The last paragraph is almost amusing… “In the interests of full disclosure…” after having completely avoided the ‘full disclosure…’ LOL

  5. It seems like the line “In the interests of full disclosure…” in the last paragraph has disappeared.

    Since there seems to have been a lot of people pointing fingers against Audello, and that I guess misunderstandings ought to be in everyone’s interest to clear up, I post a link to answers from Josh Bartlett, Audello.
    (If the above article referred to another company, then I think we need to pursue that, and expose them, because it does not seem to be Audello.)

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/podcastgroup/permalink/278889278967109/?comment_id=279152662274104&offset=0&total_comments=6

  6. Just to add…
    I want to expose rip off artists too, so please let’s work together to expose, the guilty, and clear the innocent. 🙂

  7. I am really surprised that the interest of getting clarity, and clean up the business seems so limited, when Barry Kantz’s post points to a really serious issue…

    Please let’s expose the guilty parties.
    I would be happy to do it, if Barry’s position as an attorney, shareholder and general counsel for Rawvoice Inc. makes it tricky for him to do it.

    I want to help. 🙂

    Peter

  8. Presumably this has to do with podcasting companies that host your podcast for you. We host our own podcasts, and only submit them to iTunes.
    I googled iTunes’ terms and conditions, concerning podcast submissions, and it said, “… the iTunes Store does not host podcasts. You must host media files and RSS feeds on your own web servers or use a third-party web hosting provider.”

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