What To Do When a New Podcast Uses Your Name?

Mar 27th

What do you do when a new podcast has the same name or similar idea as yours? It can be frustrating, but there are ways to navigate this situation, and even turn it to your advantage…

As more podcasts are created, and more companies adopt the medium, there’s more chance of shows popping up that are similar to existing ones. We’ve seen this recently as Lemonada media announced David Duchovny (X-Files) will host his first podcast, Fail Better, which is being compared to How To Fail with Elizabeth Day. It’s likely that this idea was organic because David Duchovny has written about failing in the past, and there’s space for both shows.

Elizabeth Day has a large profile of her own, but it’s more disheartening to see the indie podcast Straight To The Comments having to navigate the Daily Mail using the same name for their new, comparable show. Lisa Williams and Sarah Illingworth, the hosts of Straight To The Comments, said on a recent minisode of their show “you’d think that the Daily Mail would be using Google and seeing that we come up on the first two pages.”

Similar shows can arise organically, but it is notable that Straight to the Comments and How To Fail are women-fronted, and the more corporate takes on the topic chose men to host. It’s unlikely this was a conscious decision from production teams, but it does seem to exemplify this new, more commercialised iteration of podcasting.

Whether it is coincidence or more directly influenced, there is a lot you can do about similar shows, even as an individual or small show. We suggest some ways to navigate the situation, plus we learn more from the Editor of Straight To The Comments, Emily Crosby. (We invited DMG Media to also comment, but at the time of publishing we haven’t received a response.)

This article is a list of things to consider and should not be taken as legal advice.

Don’t get disheartened

It’s worth knowing that copyright is an automatic form of media rights that applies to creative works, so you don’t need to have ‘registered’ your podcast anywhere to prove you own your show. By being the first to create the show you are in a good position when it comes to any actual infringement.

This could also be a good chance to reaffirm your podcast idea to yourself and your audience, and it can be quite reassuring to know that you’ve got a good idea if other people want to do something similar.

Check if it IS copyright infringement

You own the copyright for your show, but copyright law can be complicated because it only applies to the execution of an idea, not to ideas themselves. This means that shows can be about the same topic – for example a particular cold crime case – so long as they cover the topic in distinct ways.

In a recent interview with Press Gazette, Jamie East (Head of Podcasts at DMG Media and Executive Producer of the Daily Mail’s new podcast) talked about this: “if you’re telling a story in a different way, or in a new way, or you’re using your own platform to tell that story, such as Straight to the Comments or Sidebar. Then you’ve got a point of difference already.”

Both hosting platforms and podcast apps do have their rules and regulations that can help clarify copyright issues. For example, in the Terms and Conditions for Apple Podcasts “1.7. Rights Infringement” refers specifically to copyright law and is more vague, but the “1.4. Impersonation” specifies Apple will remove:

“Podcasts designed to mislead listeners by mimicking, copying, or duplicating other content or search terms are not permitted. Creators must not pretend to be someone else or claim they are affiliated with someone else without their permission and cannot use the artwork, description, or metadata of another creator’s show without permission.”

Unfortunately, whilst artwork, description and metadata are specified, the podcast name isn’t.

Even if the new show isn’t directly mimicking yours or infringing on your copyright, if there is a possibility that it could confuse your audience, you should still address the situation.

Find out who the other show is

It’s important to find out who’s behind the new podcast to decide the best course of action. Is it a big company or an independent show? What are the names of the hosts, producers, executive producers and production company? You can often find this information on the shownotes in your podcast app, but Podchaser is another good resource for this information, and will also show you which hosting platform they use.

It’s worth noting that if there aren’t clearly any people attached to the show, or the feed has copied your show completely, it might be Podcast Piracy, and you might want to file a DMCA – more on that below!

Get legal support

It might feel intimidating to ask for legal support, but this is worth it, especially if you are dealing with a company or somebody who might also have legal support. “Lots of friends and colleagues encouraged us to pursue a legal case, and suggested law firms that could help us” says Emily. “Speak to as many of them as you can, to see whether you have a case worth pursuing. Legal cases are long and frustrating, so it might not be for you, but getting advice from someone who has fought a similar case is useful anyway.”

There are agencies that can offer free advice, and if you are part of a workers union such as Bectu or industry association such as Radio Academy or AudioUK, you can ask them for suggestions.

Contact the show

Contacting the creators of the show directly can be a good option, and  introducing yourself and asking them to change the name may be all that is needed. They might not have been aware of your show and because podcasts are non-linear content, if you do share an audience there could even be room for collaboration.

If you are dealing with an organisation or a person who refuses to stop using the name, your legal support might be able to send a ‘cease and desist’ letter if appropriate, which is a more legally binding way of asking them to stop using the name.

File a DMCA takedown notice

If the podcast creator doesn’t respond, isn’t co-operative or you can’t find them, your legal support may advise going directly to the podcast hosting platform to file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice. This is a form of copyright protection for any digital media, and hosting platforms such as Acast or Spotify for Podcasters will have a procedure in place.

Do bear in mind that you have to be certain there is copyright infringement. As the Acast form linked says, “your statements in this document may subject you to legal consequences. You may wish to consult an attorney before submitting a claim.”

Use it as content and marketing

Whilst it’s natural to worry about the potential listeners you might lose, there is an opportunity to gain support and marketing from this type of situation by piggybacking on the PR of the new release. This was the direction that Emily and her team took with Straight To The Comments: “Rather than being buried by the media coverage of their launch, we’ve made enough noise that the press feel they have to mention us whenever they mention them.”

Protect your own podcast branding

It is worth asking your legal support whether you can trademark your show’s brand for future protection. In the UK you can register a trademark online and prices start at £170. However, you might find that you can’t trademark the name of your show as things like book titles are often exempt – but you might be able to trademark your cover art or logos.

The second thing to remember is that your show is always going to be more than your idea: it is about you, your expertise and execution. Ask yourself – what is your point of difference? With Sarah and Lisa’s Straight To The Comments, whilst there is the inherent comedic value to the idea of the show, it’s the pair’s expertise as a communications consultant and psychology graduate that is a point of difference.

Once you’ve pinpointed your unique offer, you can bring that into your overall branding. You might want to add a tagline to your show that highlights that main theme more, or perhaps make sure that your name (or names) are in the Author section of the podcast metadata.

Think about your audience (and potential audience)

The last thing to mention is probably the most important thing to keep in mind throughout the whole thing – don’t forget to think about your audience. You might want to address the situation and ask for support from current listeners and reintroduce yourself in case you get new ones.

“Our biggest fear was that new listeners wouldn’t find our show” says Emily “so we’ve concentrated on telling our story everywhere we can. It’s tempting to make episodes or social posts attacking the other show, but that’s not true to the values of our show, so we’ve stuck to the facts and encouraged fans to share our links. We work hard to make a great show, which will speak for itself.”

As podcasting matures and grows, individuals, production companies and media corporations will have to navigate how to share the space – but here’s hoping that independent podcasts get the limelight they deserve.

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