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Anchor bypasses Apple Podcasts approval process with copyright violating podcasts

June 26, 2019 · By James Cridland · 3.3 minutes to read

Appearance on the Apple Podcasts platform also means appearing on many other services, including Overcast, Pocket Casts, Player FM, Castro and a variety of other apps and websites - including our own podcast pages. Indeed, many people say that if you’re not in Apple Podcasts, you’re not really a podcast.

The approval process for inclusion within Apple Podcasts can take as long as a week, and many podcasters have found it an onerous process. It’s assumed that this involves checking the audio, as well as the metadata, to ensure that the podcast is suitable for hosting on the Apple Podcasts platform.

However, when it comes to approval, Anchor, the podcast host owned by Spotify, appears to have an unfair advantage.

Today, we can reveal that Anchor is hosting copyright violating content that must have bypassed the Apple Podcasts approval process.

We were informed by Anchor in August 2018, in a correction, stating that their podcasts “[do] have to go through the same [Apple] approval process: it just isn’t manual work for the users.”

Yet, the notes for episode one of an Anchor-hosted podcast we’ve found - posted in mid February 2019 - was clear about the content:

Mix Tape 1: Playing the greatest songs from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s and more…

The episode is a two hour mixtape, containing nothing but non-stop copyright music from a number of record companies. The first track played, in full, was A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton, on A&M records published by Universal Music Publishing. The next track was Dancing with Myself by Generation X, a track on Chrysalis Records also published by Universal.

The podcast description is also unambiguous: promising “the best variety of songs”, for you to download and enjoy wherever you like.

Since then, the podcast has posted 24 further mixes, five in June alone, none of which are able to be copyright cleared, and all of which we believe are in violation of international copyright law. This places all podcast apps, and even podcast pages like our own, under risk of legal action.

The podcast also appears on Stitcher, TuneIn and Google Podcasts. Interestingly, this podcast is not carried on Spotify, Anchor’s parent company.

Podcast executives we’ve spoken to in the last twenty-four hours tell us that Anchor podcasts have always been exempt from Apple Podcast approvals. Some tell Podnews that this is unfair practice which harms competition in this area.

It’s clear that this podcast would not pass the Apple Podcasts approval process. So, either Anchor’s representatives weren’t correct when they corrected a story of ours last year, or something’s gone wrong somewhere with Apple’s approval.

We would suggest it’s the former. The Apple Podcasts catalogue is littered with Anchor users’ test podcasts with gibberish descriptions that also clearly haven’t gone through approval. It’s bad for users, and puts podcast apps under legal risk.

We’d like to learn more about Anchor’s special approval process, and would ask Apple to reconsider. A level playing field is good for all podcast publishers.

Update

In a comment, Anchor tell us:

Anchor has a zero-tolerance, DMCA-compliant policy for copyright violation. Upon identification, infringing content is removed immediately. Podcasts distributed through Anchor are subject to listening platforms’ normal review process for new shows. If there have been any changes to the processes for how podcast listening platforms review and process shows distributed by Anchor, we have not been made aware of it.

We’ve also heard from podcast publishers, like this:

We at {REMOVED} are registered at Apple as a Featured Provider, which means that we can submit podcasts to Apple Podcasts bypassing the approval process. Our new podcasts typically appear within an hour on the platform.

and another writes:

I have the same privilege with an old “artist page” account. Anything I add to iTunes to that (account) is live in Apple Podcasts in minutes.

We suspect that Apple’s technical review, which is done automatically, is always applied to submissions; but that human content review is not in these cases.

—James is the Editor of Podnews, and was first involved in podcasting in January 2005.

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