I’ve been writing and speaking for several years about the likelihood of lawsuits concerning unlicensed music in podcasts. See, for example, my 2015 blog post “Can I Play Music On My Podcast?”
Spoiler Alert: The answer is “no, unless you have the proper licenses.”
Recently, a podcaster was sued for copyright infringement for doing exactly that – playing popular music on a podcast without the appropriate license. To my knowledge, this is the first time that this has been the subject of a lawsuit, but I doubt it will be the last.
Universal Music Group (“UMG”), one of the world’s biggest music labels, filed suit in federal court against iBus Media, which owns pokernews.com and produces a variety of poker-related podcasts. In the lawsuit, which can be read here, UMG alleges that iBus Media has produced and distributed hundreds of podcast episodes that include unlicensed music owned by UMG, listing 46 specific songs by artists as diverse as Kanye West, Garth Brooks, and Justin Bieber.
UMG claims that they notified iBus Media about this alleged infringement as early as 2015 and that iBus Media failed to cease its infringing activity. The lawsuit demands the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per infringing copyright, plus attorneys’ fees and costs. The statutory damages alone could exceed $6 million dollars.
Podcasters, beware: just because a song is popular doesn’t mean you have the right to play it on your podcast. Obtaining the proper licenses is complicated and can be expensive, but as this lawsuit shows, the cost of not playing by the rules can be even more substantial. For more info about how to handle music on your podcast, check out my (free) book Podcast Law, or contact me directly.