New organisation formed
for podcasters


28 Nov 2005

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A new representative body has been established to guide the ever-increasing community of Irish podcasters through the labyrinthine maze of issues ranging from libel and music licensing to sponsorship and product placement, siliconrepublic.com has learned

Because the organisation is so new it has only been tentatively titled the Podcasting Representative Body (PodRepBod), explains founder Brian Greene of Doop Design, and like Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) is part of a growing movement focusing on the rights of individuals in the online world. “Effectively it is a forum for people who podcast,” says Greene.

Unlike DRI, which champions and fights various issues, PodRepBod will focus on informing podcasters of topics such as libel law and music licensing regulations so hopefully they won’t run into trouble. Greene is establishing the group because he believes the need exists to safeguard the activity of podcasters with regards to licensing, the law and a range of other issues such as standards, training, hosting, product placement and sponsorship.

“Let’s say technology is faster paced than bureaucracy and officialdom and therefore there’s no broadcasting licensing for podcasts,” Greene explains. But that, he says, does not mean podcasters can steer clear of libel and music licensing issues. In fact, podcasters are in very real danger of blundering into costly court cases.

From the first podcast in Ireland by community radio station NearFM earlier this year, the podcasting community in Ireland is constantly growing and today there are at least 40 podcast products, with new podcasts arriving each week. “This is a mixture of former radio professionals embarking on interests in a new medium to the very passionate amateur with lots to say and the equipment to do it.”

Podcasting spent close to a year gaining momentum as an underground movement of sorts — an estimated six million Americans have listened to a podcast — and iPod-maker Apple embraced it by adding podcasting features to the recent release of its music player software iTunes 4.9. It says customers have subscribed to five million podcasts from the iTunes Podcast Directory, which features more than 6,000 free audio programmes, making it one of the largest podcast directories in the world.

Unlike live streaming, which requires the listener to be present while a show is being broadcast over the internet, podcasting is suited for consumption whenever the user wants. Podcasts can be recorded radio programmes made available after broadcast or they can just as easily be a brand new show created by enthusiasts or amateurs. Shows on any subject can run from mere minutes to hours. Podcasting uses really simple syndication (RSS) technology that allows people to subscribe to a podcast by topic as they would to a website or blog.

The issue of music licensing is a particular hotbed. Unless podcasters have acquired the rights to use a song, they do not have the right to use the music. “Podcasters need to move towards a situation of certainty in terms of where they stand for using music. You can get your hands on certain royalty-free music, otherwise known as ‘pod-safe’ music. This would come from artists who have decided to allow their music to be used in podcasts.”

The issue of dual-licensing music for the use on podcasts such as that used in radio stations has already created divisions around the world. In the US, various music collection agencies and record companies are proactively examining licensing agreements with podcasters. “But in France,” says Greene, “the authorities have decided not to allow for the creation of a license that supercedes the license that collection agencies already have. The French said there can’t be two licenses. In America, bands such as the Dropkick Murphys have decided to make some of their money available for use in podcasts.

“However, independent podcasters don’t have legal teams and financial resources that traditional broadcast organisations would have. Our focus with PodRepBod would be to publish some guidelines that would help save people from perpetrating libel – assist people in going down the road of editorial decision-making,” Greene explained.

Greene has set up a list at webnet.ie called opencast@webnet.ie. The new body will be formed from the list and will produce an FAQ at a new domain yet to be announced.

By John Kennedy