One of the main challenges for content producers when they create their audios is knowing whether what they’re doing is legal or not. Internet makes it really easy to find resources, but not everything you find online can be used legally -you could be infringing someone else’s copyright. You should never forget that, as a rule, all cultural products are copyright protected, and that therefore you cannot use them as you please, especially for profit. There are some exceptions to the rule, but since most contents you will find will likely be protected by copyright legislation, it is advised to be careful with what you decide to use.
You should be really careful when creating your own content, and when using someone else’s audio. For example, it doesn’t matter if you yourself recorded a music gig with your own recording equipment. The music you have listened to and recorded is copyrighted by their authors and performers, thus you do NOT have the right to reproduce it without their creator’s express written consent. Same goes for, to offer another example, using the lyrics of another song to sing it yourself. Although you are the performer and yours are the performer rights, both the melody you have used, and the song’s lyrics are protected by the author’s rights, and cannot be used without their consent.
Is it impossible to avoid copyright infringement? Not really: everyday, new Internet content with its own author rights is created, without infringing someone else’s copyright. The easiest way of knowing you haven’t infringed any copyright is creating and producing your own content from start to finish. If you have created the music, the voice, the script, and every element that’s part of your podcast, you will be in control of the content you are offering and no one else will hold rights over it.
However, creating everything by yourself looks like a difficult and almost impossible task. Theme and background music is one of the elements where it is normal to lean on an expert’s work. In audiobooks, for example, the producer is not always the author of the literary text he is reading. The danger of crossing the line and infringing copyright is always present.
How to avoid this? First of all, you must always negotiate with the copyright owner of the content you wish to reproduce. For music, for example, you must contact the SGAE or the organism for the management of rights that applies in the country where you are, to process the payment of a Music Reproduction License. In the case of books, you should contact the writer, his agent, or his publishing house to be able to buy the edition rights for audiobook format.
If your budget is limited, or if you don’t want to pay to use someone else’s content, there are other options as well. First thing you should take into account is regardless of how accessible Internet contents are, most of them cannot be used. It doesn’t matter if the song we want to use has been shared irregularly over the Internet: copyright was infringed by someone else in the first place, but the content is still under copyright and you will be guilty if you use it or reuse it without permission. You cannot just search in Google or other search engines to find the sources you will use to build your podcast.
To avoid copyright infringement, take into account that there are certain occasions when author rights do not apply. This is the case of mass media or educational content. Both of them use the right to quote, meaning both news and educational creators can reproduce someone else’s content. The reproduction must be fair, and is also limited. You cannot defend yourself against copyright infringement by saying you just wanted to educate your listeners.
Another issue to take into account when creating contents is the fact that some creations are copyright free -when copyright is no longer applied, or when it has been managed in a completely different way.
Therefore, there are copyright-free contents, that is, contents which have entered the public domain. You can read our information about copyright to discover how and when copyright expires. All the works which are already in the public domain can be distributed, reproduced, altered, and used for any purpose. Or to say it another way, you can use them to create your own content, and you won’t be infringing copyright. As an example, you can use a novel by Charles Dickens or Jane Austen to produce an audiobook, or you can use a Beethoven symphony or Chopin’s nocturnes as music for your podcast. The only limit here is remembering that the original content by these authors is copyright-free, but derivative works are still protected. Here are a few examples of what this means. If you want to use a Dickens novel as a base to create an audiobook you must use the original edition, or a translation whose translator is no longer protected by copyright – you cannot just visit a bookstore and buy some contemporary publishing house’s latest edition. You would be infringing translator and editor rights. This also applies to classical music. You can use Chopin, but not the last performance of some contemporary, famous orchestra.
Public domain works are not the only ones available to create derivative content. There are more author rights licenses, apart from copyright. Some creators are releasing their works as copyright free, letting other people to use them as they please. Some other creators use Creative Commons licenses, which allow other people to reproduce, modify or create derivative products from their works. If you want to use some Creative Commons licensed content, you must also take into account some limitations. Creative Commons authors can choose different levels of protection to their rights, limiting what you can and cannot do with their work. Some licenses don’t allow third parties to modify the content, and some only allow reusing them if you also use a Creative Commons license for your final product.
Finding this kind of content is not difficult -there are plenty of specialised sites. Project Gutenberg is the main source (and one of the most reliable ones) to find books that are already in the public domain, and also has a music section. It’s not the only one. There lots of websites specialized in classical music, like ClassiqueArchives or Mutopia, with public domain works. On Wikimedia you can find copyright-free sounds, not just music.
Classical music is not the only option -on sites like Jamendo you will also find reusable contemporary sources.