Do you need to copyright your podcast show name? If you ask a lawyer, you know the answer will be yes, but it’s a lot more nuanced than that. Things like patents and trademarks take a lot of effort and money to do correctly. Are you really serious about podcasting? Are you putting enough effort to make it valuable enough to justify the cost of copyrighting? In this episode of Feed Your Brand, Tracy Hazzard and Tom Hazzard explain the things all podcasters need to know about copyrights and trademarks and securing a podcast show name to ensure the show’s success. Tune in and learn when the right time to copyright a podcast name is and what factors you should consider before deciding to do it.
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Is Your Podcast Show Name Secure? Mastering Copyrights & Trademarks To Safeguard Podcast’s Success
We’re going to talk about your podcast show name. More specifically, is your podcast show name secure, mastering copyrights and trademarks to safeguard podcasts’ success? Tracy, this is often an inquiry subject by new podcasters, especially, “Do I need to trademark my name? Do I need to copyright this or that?” There’s a lot of concern around it. There’s a lot of uncertainty but there are also some things people need to understand so they can make some good decisions.
If you ask a lawyer, they’re going to say, “You need to copyright it. You need to trademark it.” It depends on who you ask and what answer you’re going to get. What’s their driver? Here’s the thing. I can’t even count how many copyrights you have because you don’t have to file them to have copyright protection. If I’ve written 3,000 blogs of which I have, and they all have a copyright line on the bottom, they’re valid.
Copyrights are their own animal in and of themselves. Everything in the digital realm has its copyright rules and laws about takedown and other things. That’s a can of worms that we’re not going to talk about here but I do want you to understand that that’s inherent in publishing. You put a copyright in your feed and make sure you fill out that line. It’s mandatory.
Not everybody does it the same way or does it well but the point is you’re claiming that your podcast is your copyright as the author. You say, “Copyright 2023,” or if you’ve been doing it for five years, “2018 to 2023,” and then you’re covered.
You should put your personal name and your company name. If you have a company, you should do both. Always do both. It’s for your protection as an individual and for value if you ever want to sell your podcast as a company. You want both to be in place. If your company is not paying for it, then it should belong to you. That’s something. Your copyright line is inherently a part of setting up your show for the first time. It is a required field as it sends out to it.
You have to put something there. Do that. Put that in because you’re claiming your copyright. It doesn’t mean your copyright is valid. You’re just claiming that because you could be infringing on somebody else’s copyright. They could have the same name as you. Apple lets it happen so you could have the same show name. That’s possible that that can happen in the system but they would have to have a registered copyright to come back after they ask you to take it down.
Let’s step back a second because you’re talking about podcast names there. That’s not as easy. The name of the show doesn’t fall under copyright. The content that you’re recording is copyrighted. It’s inherently copyrighted when you publish it. You do have some rights. Some people file to register copyrights. That usually happens more with a book that you write. In the music world, if you have your sheet music for a song you wrote, you would file a copyright for that so that it’s more formal. In order to enforce it, you have to have an actual registered filed copyright. The other part of this is copyright is one thing.
I do want to say something right there. You do not have to register at the time that you published it. They don’t have to be one and the same. You can claim copyright at the time you publish it and register it a year later. It doesn’t matter. That is allowed in this. I have attempted to use the copyright system to copyright podcast episodes and podcasts in general. It’s complicated and it doesn’t work very well. It’s not as easy as a book, an album, or anything like that. You would have to have a season and do an entire season for it to function. It can’t be something continually running. It doesn’t work in the registration system. You can register only something in its entirety.
It’s not the most practical thing to do but the copyright laws are there to protect your original work from being copied without your permission. You give a lot of copyright permissions away to the listening apps when you register your show. You’re giving them the authority to republish and distribute your stuff.
You’re giving them a right to cut up your episode and add ads to it too. You’re giving them a right to alter your copyright. You do need to recognize that by publishing publicly and then submitting to Spotify, Apple, or any of those places, you’re giving away a lot of distribution rights in this case. You’re not giving away the copyright to it. It’s ownership but you’re giving an allowable use.
For most podcasters, that’s a good trade-off. You want your show to be distributed and available on Apple or Spotify where people are going to be able to find it and listen. There is an exchange of value there that makes sense. What more people are probably concerned about and interested in regarding their podcast show name and if it is secure is when it comes to trademarks because that’s what applies there to the name.
Copyright doesn’t apply to the name itself. There are lots of similar phrases and words. It’s too short. You have to look at it from the trademark perspective. The problem, and we know this well, is that Apple allows duplicate names.
Every listening app allows duplicate names. There is no gatekeeper to use an old phrase from the turn of the century. There’s no legal controlling authority over podcast names. It’s very much unlike website URLs where it’s either available and you can buy it, or it’s not available and you can’t. Podcast names do not work that way. Let’s say you did trademark your podcast name, which is something you can do or attempt to do. We know people that have done it. Even if you do that, the listening apps don’t keep any record of that.
Somebody can publish another show with your same show name if they want to. If you have a trademark that’s registered for that, then you can get in touch with the listening apps and force them to take down that show or make that show change its name. That gives you the power to kick someone out of your territory on the name. Most people don’t do that though.
It’s more complicated because it doesn’t fall under what they call the DCA rules or the Digital Copyright Act. It doesn’t follow those rules because it’s a trademark and not a copyright. Because of that, you can send it to the app but they don’t have to act on it. What you have to do is go to the other hosts and their company and send a cease and desist. You have to insist that they take it down because the app is passive. Remember, the app is playing what’s in a feed somewhere.
We have never had it happen that someone sent it to us as Podetize, the host of the show, not hosting a show but being the actual distribution arm for that show. We’re not the author. We’re the distribution arm because we put out the feed for you but no one has ever asked us to take down a show because of trademark. It’s not happened. We have had a trademark dispute for a show with the name Entrepreneur. We have seen it happen multiple times. It’s not the first time. Entrepreneur Magazine doesn’t support entrepreneurship in general with the way that they enforce their trademark. They have the trademark for the word entrepreneur.
That is amazing in and of itself. They got it.
Somebody with some deep pockets ought to take them down. That ought to happen. They ought to dispute it because it’s a common name, and they should have never been granted in general but they were. Once it’s granted, you’re done. You don’t have any choices in the process. It’s not just entrepreneur. They have also gone and done blanket trademarks on entrepreneur combined with other words. Most people put a trademark or a ™ line before they have done any filing.
You’re allowed to do that.
You also haven’t searched. This is the problem. Until you do the search, you don’t know if something is going to infringe. We have had a podcaster who has had to completely change the show name and their show graphic and rebrand every single episode. Not only that but Entrepreneur Magazine forced them to change their intro and outro and edit their episode for everywhere they said the name of their show.
Let’s go into the why here. Entrepreneur, right or wrong, has a registered trademark on the word entrepreneur. They don’t want brand confusion or what they believe might be brand confusion. They try to kick everybody out of using the word entrepreneur in a podcast title, the name of a show, and/or titles of episodes and things like that. They have people looking for this and finding shows. As Tracy explained, we have a customer that had to deal with the pain in the neck after launching and publishing 15 to 20 episodes. They had to change and rebrand everything or face Entrepreneur and deal with the threat of being sued. They have pretty deep pockets compared to an independent podcaster.
Unfortunately, for you as the host if you’re using a name like this, they also arbitrarily applied it. Entrepreneurs on Fire is John Lee Dumas’ show. They didn’t take him down. They made selective choices not to do that. That’s unfortunate for you. They can bully a small person who doesn’t have deep pockets. They’re taking down what they see as early shows that aren’t popular yet. They’re not going after the popular established ones because they’re afraid of the publicity.
It’s too costly. Who knows? The reality is they’re making their judgment as to who they’re going to threaten and who they’re not.
It’s not an excuse in the court that they didn’t apply and force this other company out but they forced you. If you’re violating, you’re at risk. You would have to win in court to change that.
That’s true. I do know from experience and other trademark lawsuits. Jeep had one for the seven racetrack holes in the radiator of their grills. They used to keep any other car company from having that pattern. It was pretty broad. They had it for many years until General Motors came out with Hummer. Hummer also did it but Jeep didn’t go after GM for the Hummer with that pattern. Eventually, when Jeep tried to enforce its trademark, they said, “You haven’t enforced it for more than a decade and Hummer had this. Therefore, yours is no longer valid.” It can be challenged but it takes awfully deep pockets. Two auto companies going after each other is one thing.
You have to eventually invalidate them for not enforcing it. That would be very difficult. It’s not practical. It’s faster not to do it but here’s the problem. Most of you who name your show, you fall in love with the name and then never check it. That’s what creates a security problem if you want to call it that. That’s what creates a liability issue for you. You want to trademark it but you never checked it. You don’t even have a right to trademark it because others exist out there or names are too similar. A lawyer will come back and tell you when the search came up and popped up that you can’t trademark this.
Let’s explain what that little ™ means at the end of a name. By putting that there, and anybody can do it, you’re telling the world, “I intend to register this name as a trademark. That’s my intention. I’m in the process.” If anybody has a problem with it, you need to make yourself known. You need to complain. You need to voice your opposition to it while it’s in this ™ state before it gets registered because once it’s registered, then the person who has the registration has all the power. Anybody can put ™ on a name. You’re claiming, “I’m intending to trademark this.” That’s what that means. When you have an ®, you’ve got the trademark and the power.
You can see the ® on Podetize. We put the ™ and also filed right away on it because it’s the name of our company. It’s the name of our URL. We had already done the search before we named the company because we didn’t want to get into a problem and the expense of printing things, planning on this, and building everything around a name. You wouldn’t do that but a show is experimental sometimes. You don’t know if you’re going to deep dive into it, if it’s going to be worth it, or if it’s going to be the name you’re going to keep. It’s not necessarily worth trademarking yet.
Yet is a good word there. Here’s the thing. When it comes to podcast names, in some ways, it’s a little bit of the Wild West where you can do anything you want to even if someone else has the same name. The reality is there is this natural selection that happens. You’re launching a new show. You search on the name you want and see what other shows you find that have the same name or if they don’t have related names or similar names. You view the landscape. You think to yourself, “It doesn’t make sense for me to have the same name as this other show most of the time so I’m going to choose a different name.”
We covered that in a previous coaching call and episode. If you want to hear about what happens if you choose a similar name, we’ve got a whole show on that.
There may be a good reason why you want to draft off someone else’s success and have not an identical name but a similar name. You want to look at that other episode for that but most of the time, this is a self-correcting situation. People generally don’t want to have the same name because it causes confusion. It makes a difference if you want to have a domain name for your podcast website that’s the same as your show. That’s also not a requirement. It is a strategic choice. Sometimes it makes sense. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it doesn’t matter at all.
Let me tell you a little bit about what I did with The Binge Factor. The Binge Factor logo is pretty unique. It’s clear as to what it is. It stands out. It’s unique in its look. You can trademark that logo in the way that it is. I chose not to do it because audio is considered an album. I put together a grouping of episodes and copyrighted it. I decided to copyright The Binge Factor because everything that I do is digital here.
Nothing is going to be printed. I’m not going to go out and make swag. I don’t care about those kinds of things. It’s not the name of our company. I didn’t want to spend the expense but $50 seemed worth it. I decided to copyright it. I copyrighted it like it was an album cover. I copyrighted it with also episodes that went in and under it in a selection, if you want to think of it like that as if it was a selected album of it.
I was able to get that. It’s a registered copyright. It is easier for me to take down someone with The Binge Factor name because of that. All I have to do is say, “I have a registered copyright. Here it is. It says The Binge Factor. Take it down.” In the copyright, it shows it without the logo. It also does have it with the logo, which is interesting. It has it both ways but I was able to copyright The Binge Factor as a title because it’s an album or an audio program. It’s a radio show. That’s the way they treated it.
I was able to do that for it because it was unique enough. We were unable to and did not do that with Feed Your Brand but we chose to put our Podetize bug in the middle of our logo so that you couldn’t use brand confusion from the visual because that’s in our logo, and that is a registered trademark. We chose not to do it for Feed Your Brand in a different way because the name was so generic that they weren’t going to allow it. The Binge Factor was unusual. They did allow it because of that.
It’s thinking about what you’re going to do with it, how you’re going to use it, and what it is in the scope of things. Is it worth the amount of money? $50 was a no-brainer. It felt like it was worth it for The Binge Factor and what we’re using it for, which is a training program for all of you. I do what you all do, and you learn from how I handle this and what I do with it. In a sense, it’s a learning program and not necessarily something that I’m selling. I’m never going to put ads on it. It’s never going to be commercial in that sense. It wasn’t worth trademarking for me. It’s a choice that was made by us.Copyright doesn't really apply to podcast names. Every listening app allows duplicate names. There is no gatekeeper. There is no legal controlling authority of podcast names. Click To Tweet
You don’t file to register a copyright or file to register a trademark. It doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to protect your podcast name and make it more secure. I mentioned it before. Do you have a domain name that is the same? What other things do you get that are tangent to your podcast name if you get more of those things like you do buy the URL? You don’t just buy the dot-com but you buy the dot-net, the dot-org, and the dot-io.
I do think it’s more valuable if you’ve bought the dot-com like TheBingeFactor.com. We own that. It makes it easier to defend because someone is not going to swoop in on top of it.
Honestly, it becomes less valuable for the potential competitor who starts a show called The Binge Factor. When people say, “Let’s go to TheBingeFactor.com,” they’re going to go to your website and not their website. Maybe that helps you more than it helps them. There’s this concept of building a bigger moat around your name. How big a moat can you build around your podcast name or podcast brand with other pieces and parts that will be a deterrent to other people?
This is what we want to say. We have been using Feed Your Brand as a podcast for years.
I was doing this test about the SEO power of a blog post. If you type in a certain keyword phrase that’s very popular, it brings up an episode of ours from years ago. We were already publishing.
We have been doing it for years, which means if somebody tried to trademark that name, we would show up as existing art in their legal search and prevent them from making a trademark on top of ours. That’s going to happen in that way by you going out there and producing week after week. You’re putting effort into your name that has become of value, which prevents someone from trying to swoop underneath you but if you’ve abandoned it, that’s another problem.
We need to be very clear here. We’re not intellectual property attorneys. We just happen to have a lot of experience with a lot of these things and have some beliefs and opinions about it. If you need to confirm something regarding that, you need to seek the advice of an intellectual property attorney. Copyrights, trademarks, and patents usually fall together as a legal specialty. There are lots of good ones. People focus on how these things apply to podcasts.
I interviewed Gordon Firemark who’s known as The Podcast Attorney. He’s a specialist in podcast law. I interviewed him on The Binge Factor. We talked a lot about copyrighting and safeguarding things. He’s a big fan of that because it is easier to enforce, less expensive, and other things but he does recommend trademarks as well. He has a whole bunch of free tools and things on his website about that. You will be able to connect up and check out Gordon as well to get some good advice from someone who’s been practicing law in the podcasting arena for quite some time.
That sounds like sound advice. It’s a good resource, and we always have good resources at Podetize.com. I don’t know if I have a whole lot more to say on this topic. Do you?
I want to sum up and say that patenting, trademarking, copyrighting, and all of those types of things can get expensive. Copyrighting is the cheapest thing you can do. Trademark, design patents, and then utility patents are the next cheap. It cascades in cost. We always need to think of the return on investment. Is it worth it for me to do this? Is this valuable enough? Have I put enough work in to make it valuable enough? That’s the real question. Are you serious about this podcasting thing or not? Are you going to put in more than ten episodes? Are you going to go for 100? Is this going to become the crux and value of your business in terms of a deliverable? It’s worth investing in and thinking about whether or not you’re doing something.
If that cost becomes spread out over hundreds of episodes, now it’s valuable. Be thinking about that. When we think about whether we should patent a product or trademark a name, we’re thinking about the value at the core of what we’re going to do with it. Is it the essential long-term value? Podetize is truly a long-term value for us, way more than Feed Your Brand but we put the work in on Feed Your Brand, and we do have rights there. We prevented other people from trademarking it because we put in the work. Those things become valued over time.
That’s also something. If you want to preserve your rights by putting a ™ on it, make sure that you have an ability in the future. Think about doing that. That’s truly something you can do but we never decide whether or not we’re going to trademark our patent something until we’re sure we’re going to do something with it and it’s not a waste. I would rather preserve my time, my energy, and my capital for something important in my business.
In the long-term, you want to think about it. If you’re going to commit to a show for years, you’re going to build a lot of equity in that name and brand value. You’re going to build equity in keyword rankings on your website if you are publishing a blog for every episode the way we do. There’s a lot of value there that may be worth protecting.
The one thing that I do want to add to that is if you think you’re going to sell your show someday or your company and the show with it, which we have seen happen in the real estate industry and the entrepreneur industry where they sold their company and their podcast along with it, you can raise the describable value on the line item on your sale of it by adding a trademark and copyrights and by making sure that you know your intellectual property value there. If you think that’s the path you’re on, go ahead and do a trademark in it because you’re going to have value.Just by producing podcast episodes week after week, you're putting effort into your podcast name, and that prevents someone from trying to swoop underneath you. Click To Tweet
It will add value to the sale value. It will be an asset.
That’s it. We’re not attorneys. Don’t forget that. Consult one but think about the value that you’ve built into everything that you’ve done. Thanks, everyone, for reading. We will be back with some more podcasting tips and advice to take you to the next level in podcasting.