CBC Claims Podcast Apps Violate Copyright

CBC LogoThe Canadian Broadcasting Company, better known as CBC, was one of the earliest public broadcasting organizations to adopt the medium of podcasting. Many CBC shows have been available as podcasts for years. And while those shows are still technically available as podcasts, the CBC is now trying to block some podcast-consumption apps that carry CBC podcast feeds.

This was first reported on Reddit, where user dredmobius discovered CBC shows were no longer accessible within his podcast app of choice. dredmobius contacted the app’s developer, who said that the CBC requested removal of its shows from the app due to violation of copyright. (The name of the app in this case has not been released.) In the same Reddit thread, dredmobius posted a copy of the notice that CBC allegedly sent to the app developer:

I am contacting you regarding the unauthorized use of CBC’s podcasts that are being used in your <app name> app.
By using CBC’s digital services you have agreed to our our Terms of Use located at cbc.ca/aboutcbc/discover/termsofuse.html.
Under section 2(b) of these Terms of Use, you are prohibited from using our podcasts for commercial purposes without a proper licence from CBC.
I would ask to cease immediately the use of our unlicensed podcasts.
If you interested in CBC content and podcast, we can discuss a license fee model.
I would be happy to have a call to discuss further our content and services.

Twitter user @AvenSarah asked the CBC what was going on in with this situation. An official CBC account replied:

In the same Twitter exchange, CBC also linked to a recently published document on its website titled “Why CBC/Radio-Canada has terms of use for its RSS feeds.” The article points to some legalese in CBC’s online terms of use for its podcast RSS feeds, along with this explanation:

So why do we want to work with third-party podcast apps or aggregators to agree on conditions for distribution of our podcasts?

CBC/Radio-Canada relies on advertising revenue; we try to monetize our podcasts. Apps that sell premium accounts, or use in-stream or banner advertising for example, are earning revenue through the content they offer. As a general principle, we think it’s fair for podcast creators to be compensated in some way for the content they create.

But, it’s not just about the money. When someone offers our content to their audience without any relationship to us, we have no idea what they’re doing with our content. Are they copying our content to their servers and serving cached versions? What’s their business model? Do our analytics capture their traffic? Is there a competitive conflict between our ads and the ads being displayed on their apps?

Not having the answers to these questions affects our own advertising model, and the analytics that help us understand who our audience is. Our brand can take a hit too if aggregators are associating our content with something that we’re not comfortable with, such as recently, when our content was placed next to ads for pornography. We also have agreements we need to uphold – commercial music for example, and so need to know that any third-party use of our content honours those agreements.

In some ways, the CBC’s perspective is understandable. The organization wants to protect its ability to monetize its content, and it doesn’t necessarily want third-party platforms to run their own ads against CBC shows. Still, podcast RSS feeds live on the open web. They should be accessible to any device or application that can properly read them. The CBC can try and stop podcasting apps from syndicating its shows. But it’s not gonna be easy getting this genie back into its bottle.