Some unusual clauses from podcast host terms and conditions
· Updated August 13, 2020 · By
Terms and conditions form part of every podcast host: but all podcast hosts are not the same. Here, we highlight a few more unusual terms and conditions from a few large podcast hosts; and some more usual ones you may see elsewhere.
We reviewed their initial terms of service for their yet-to-launch podcast service, on July 23 2020.
§4: Your Content may not include advertising or messages that disparage or are directed against Amazon or any Service (like Amazon Music or Audible).
“Advertising or messages”. Thinking of pointing out that Amazon owner Jeff Bezos makes very, very few philanthropic donations? Or want to mention any of these criticisms about how Amazon operates? Doing so on a podcast could lead to you being thrown off the service.
But, it offered no other restrictions. Until today, August 13, when this clause appears to have quietly changed. It now reads:
§4: Your Content may not include advertising that does not comply with Amazon’s Creative Acceptance Policies
This set of advertising rules add significantly more restrictions on podcasters (not least because the term “advertising” isn’t defined - is editorial about a product classed as “advertising”? Where’s the line?). We can’t now promote a “five star rated podcast” (2.4.2), since ads can only include Amazon star ratings. We can’t say “You’re not getting much sleep - so would you like a new mattress?” (2.6), our podcasts are now longer allowed to contain any political advertising (5), nor any explicit language at all in anything Amazon considers an advert (5), we can’t talk about cryptocurrencies, free e-books except ones available on Kindle, or astonishingly any religious services (6), any advertising of alcohol except in certain countries (7.1), and no sexual innuendo (7.9.2); and there are plenty more random restrictions.
We reviewed Acast Open’s terms of service on its launch day of 21 November 2019.
§7.1 you can have advertising on the podcasts that you host with Acast Open - even on the free tier - but you agree that any Advertisements placed by you shall … not promote any other individual or entity that directly competes with Acast.
This differs from the above Amazon clause, since it only refers to advertisements. Which seems quite sensible.
We reviewed YouTube’s new terms of service, which take effect on December 10, 2019.
YouTube may terminate your access, or your Google account’s access to all or part of the Service if YouTube believes, in its sole discretion, that provision of the Service to you is no longer commercially viable.
If YouTube can’t make money out of what you’re doing, they might terminate your account with them. The company denies this is the intention of this clause.
YouTube may suspend or terminate your access, your Google account, or your Google account’s access to all or part of the Service if (a) you materially or repeatedly breach this Agreement; (b) we are required to do so to comply with a legal requirement or a court order; or (c) we believe there has been conduct that creates (or could create) liability or harm to any user, other third party, YouTube or our Affiliates.
…and, if YouTube thinks you have breached their agreement or might “harm” any user, they can not only terminate your access to YouTube, but also terminate your Google account, removing your emails, photographs, password lists and many other things you rely on Google for.
We’d recommend, at the very least, opening a separate Google account for your YouTube use.
We reviewed Anchor’s new terms of service from October 23, 2019.
§6: Spotify may also reclaim your username for any reason, including … giving your username to another user of the Services, and Spotify will have no liability to you if it does so. - (“Spotify” is the owner of Anchor). Your username forms part of your Anchor Profile URL, which (in turn) forms part of the way you’d promote your podcast. You probably don’t want them to give your hard work to someone else.
§14: This contract requires forced arbitration, which means you waive your right to sue, to participate in a class action lawsuit, or to appeal. Fair Arbitration Now is a pressure group trying to make this practice outlawed in the US.
Contacted about the above terms, Anchor says:
This update to our Terms of Service was a routine refresh to ensure our terms are in line with our business and the tools we provide creators. Part of the acquisition process included updating Anchor’s terms to reflect its new business status as part of Spotify. This in no way indicates any change to Anchor’s approach to podcast creation and empowering podcasters. Our terms are written in a way that is meant to benefit podcasters, allow for creativity in podcasting, and permit Anchor to continue to provide stellar tools for podcasting.
We respect and value all creators, so if any Podnews readers have specific questions about our Terms of Service, we welcome them to reach out at help.anchor.fm.
And, in case you missed it, no, Anchor doesn’t own your podcast. See below for a bit more general information.
Libsyn’s Terms and Conditions of Use either date from 2013 or from 2017 - their page links to a “new Libsyn TOS, effective 4/1/2017” or a “current Libsyn TOS” reproduced on the page itself. We examined “the new TOS”, which is, confusingly, dated March 1 2017.
- §8: Any attempt to directly monetize Your Content via third-party ad networks or other outside business agreements without written approval from Libsyn is prohibited … If you choose to monetize Your Content, you agree to utilize Libsyn Service to enable monetization … which may include additional requirements for revenue sharing or fees for use
You can’t carry ads in your podcasts without asking first for permission. It’s unclear how that permission is evaluated. If you do monetise your podcast, Libsyn will only allow this if you agree to let Libsyn also sell your ads.
- §7: Libsyn may at its discretion request that accounts be moved to libsynpro or charge additional fees for customers utilizing Service at levels equivalent to an enterprise networks and corporate account.
If you’re doing well, Libsyn might demand more money from you, but gives no further details about when you might hit this limit, or what the limit is. (You could compare Buzzsprout’s TOS which has a comprehensive definition of limits of their Basic plan).
Libsyn responded to one podcaster who had concerns about the monetisation clause, and their responses are quoted in a private Facebook group. They said, in 2018:
We do require that if you are going to accept ads you also be willing to work with libsyn on potential ad campaigns and allow us to present your show in our proposal lists as one we are working with for ad campaigns. All our ad campaigns are double opt in - you say yes to the advertiser they say yes to you.
If you are going to always refuse all ad campaigns from us or if you have signed a 3rd party exclusive representation - then you need to use our libsynPro service - where you pay for the download bandwidth and there are no restrictions on monetization.
We’re unaware of any podcast host that has similar restrictions on earning money.
Almost every podcast host
You may see wording like: “we reserve the right to remove content if it is offensive, abusive, defamatory, pornographic, threatening, obscene, or advocates or incites violence.”
“Offensive” has no legal definition, so this clause really means that they can remove anything they like. However, all podcast hosts are private companies, and it’s up to them what content they allow on their service. There is no right to free speech on any podcast host. Some podcast hosts have tighter definitions of the material they will remove. Blubrry, as one example, just says it will consider requests to remove shows that promote “hate or violence”. Some podcast hosts refuse to remove hate speech, even when notified of its content.
You should proceed with the assumption that every podcast host can remove or delete your stuff at any time, without any reason being given. It’s very unusual, though, for podcast hosts to abuse their terms and conditions in this way - and unless you’re producing something really controversial, it’s unlikely this will matter.
You may also see wording that you’re giving your podcast host “a non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide right and license in connection with the service”. You need to do this if you want them to host your content: that’s what you’re paying them for, and without a licence they’re technically breaking your copyright. However, watch for licences that go a bit further, including ones that claim “in perpetuity”, which might mean that they refuse to delete your stuff.
If your host’s terms of service let them prepare “derivative works” that can mean two different things: either, it allows them to edit your stuff, but (probably more likely) it allows them to take your 320kbps MP3 file and resample it, for certain users, to be a 80kbps AAC file so it works better in mobile devices. You’ll find this kind wording in YouTube’s terms, as one example. They also can’t put your podcast on a plane without it, or more unusual places.
We’d like to hear from you
We don’t read everyone’s terms and conditions. If you spot any that “look a bit suss”, as they say in Britain, please let us know.
- Here’s how to choose a podcast host, with some other things you might want to consider.
- Here’s where to subscribe to our daily newsletter. It’s free, and will keep you in touch in case anyone else wants to do anything strange in their TOS.