Don't get sued over your podcast

A primer on social media law

A primer on social media law Pat yourself on the back if you've finally launched your organization's podcast. Now all you've got to worry about is whether you're breaking any FCC regulations. While we're still in the frontier days of podcast law, organizations that create and distribute podcasts may soon need to pay attention to rules that normally govern media outlets—like privacy and defamation laws, consumer protection rules and false advertising regulations. This might sound like more than you bargained for when you started your fledgling podcast. "Often the freedom of the podcasting environment can lead people to be very expressive in podcasts," points out Jeffrey Hermes, a partner in Boston law firm Brown Rudnick, which works with publishing and media clients. "Someone on a podcast might not be aware of the rules governing their speech. The question of a podcaster's responsibilities is coming up, and lawyers are starting to watch new media cases to see what might apply podcasts." While podcasts might be thought of as broadcasts in one sense, the FCC isn't getting involved, since podcasts are distributed via the Net. "The FCC has made limited incursions into the Internet, so its communications decency regulations [which govern broadcasters] might not apply," Hermes explains. So, that means if one of your guests says a few of George Carlin's seven dirty words, you probably won't end up with a big fat fine. However, Hermes points out, it won't leave you off the hook for other regulations that govern media outlets. "Podcasts are more like print in that there's a subscription model," Hermes says. It's easiest to think of a podcast as analogous to an opinion column, he says, if you want to understand the legal issues. For example:

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