An article about how the Guy Friends Podcast was recently banned from SoundCloud due to copyright claims is getting a lot of attention this week in the podcasting community. It’s a cautionary tale on two fronts about: 1.) Using unlicensed music in a podcast. 2.) Relying solely on a third-party platform to host all of your podcast assets, including your RSS feed.
The first point about unlicensed music is definitely key to the story. But a dozen lengthy blog posts probably wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface on that topic. The second point, relying on a third-party platform, is what I’ll focus on here.
In podcasting terms, we usually think of “third-party platforms” as service providers like web or media hosting companies. To get literal, you (or your podcast) are considered to be the first party. (We’ll skip over the second party for now.) As the first party, anyone you hire or pay for services is then considered to be a third party. And while often times in podcasting, third parties hold important assets like web or media files, they don’t technically own them. Unless otherwise specified, those assets are yours. You own and control them. You’re just renting some space from whatever third-party service(s) you’re using. That makes these third parties into quasi-landlords over your digital domain. Break their rules, and they can (and probably will) evict you with little warning.
In the case of the Guy Friends Podcast, the show’s producers thought they were following the rules by relying mostly on music that itself had been mixed and mashed up by SoundCloud-hosted artists. The show’s producers understood that the songs contained unlicensed samples. But it only stood to reason that, if the DJ’s who remixed those samples weren’t getting takedowns on SoundCloud, the Guy Friends Podcast should be safe, too. They were even careful to make sure the songs they picked were licensed under Creative Commons. But these precautions weren’t enough to keep them clear of SoundCloud’s content ID system. After three years of hosting everything (including the show’s RSS feed) on SoundCloud, the Guy Friends Podcast was completely removed from the platform:
You can’t listen to anything we’ve ever created in three-plus years on iTunes either, as the RSS is broken. We face a dilemma many others who work online have dealt with as websites are shut down or reworked; our links are dead, our content is sailing around like ghost ships on the internet.
Again, getting back to the copyright topic, there’s a whole lot that could be written about how SoundCloud handled the removal of the Guy Friends Podcast. But if the producers of the show had taken the time to establish their presence on a domain they owned and controlled, the SoundCloud issue would’ve been a bump in the road instead of a major disaster. Instead, the Guy Friends Podcast went all in on SoundCloud’s platform. Now, the show’s producers are faced with the challenge of rebuilding their audience in a new location, with no direct way to carry over their previous subscribers.
This kind of thing has happened many times before in podcasting’s history. But usually, it occurs when a podcasting platform closes shop on short notice, leaving its users out in the cold. The situation with Guy Friends Podcast is slightly different, as SoundCloud is still in operation. But the outcome is the same.
Throughout the article about the Guy Friends Podcast, the show’s producers lay out a series of points that led them to believe SoundCloud was supportive of their show. But SoundCloud eventually gave them the boot because, in the end, third-party platforms don’t care about your podcast. They can (and will) remove your content if you break their rules.
The best preventative measure against this is to always own and control your own space, especially your RSS feed. Knowing that third-party platforms don’t care about your podcast, ask yourself this question: Do you?