I am not a lawyer, and if you want an official answer you might consider checking with a lawyer. This is only my opinion

I'm not sure what is going on lately, but I am getting bombarded with questions (legal questions I might add) about playing music in your podcast. The quick answer in 99.9% of the cases is NO you can't play ANY part (5 seconds, 10 seconds, etc) in your podcast. Here is what I've been told:

  1. You need permission of the songwriter
  2. You need permission of the performer
  3. You need permission from the rights holder.

So if you wanted to play the song Yesterday, you would need permission from Paul McCartney and John Lennon, the performer (Yesterday has been performed by a zillion people) and the rights holder (Michael Jackson?). With this in mind, have fun getting permission.

We talked about this on the Podcasters Roundtable a while back with lawyer Gordon Firemark (who will also say to contact a lawyer in your area).

Now does this suck? Yes. I do wish the music industry would come up with a license for podcasters to pay and allows us to play music.

Do people still play music in their podcast? Yes. Do people still drive over the speed limit? Yes. This doesn't mean it's legal. Playing unlicensed music in your show might get you booted from iTunes (if you create a music show, you should put in the description that you have permission).

There are those who have gone through 9 months of negotiating (Dan Miller of the 48 days to the work you love) and attempted to go through the hurdles of being legal (Coverville). Brian from Coverville will be the first to tell you the music industry doesn't know what to do with podcasting. Someone in that industry should figure it out.

One more point, this also applies to TV, Movies, etc. You need permission.


What About Fair Use?

Fair use is a gray area (only recognized in the US) where if you comment on the music that it might be deemed “Fair use.” Keep in mind, if you get sued you have to pay for legal fees and hope you win your case to prove you had fair use privileges.

Podcasting Legal Guide

A podcast legal guide (written by lawyers who will say contact a lawyer) is available here

Here is another great article from Aplifi Media